September AOTM: Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

Throughout lockdown I searched high and low for new music and in general struggled to find something that blew my mind. This was until Sault released ‘Untitled (Black Is)’.  Over 3 months since the first listen it is still fresh as the first listen and I’m excited to present it to you as this month’s album of the month.

Who are Sault and where have they come from? In short, nobody really knows. It’s written that they’re a collective most likely from London and they’re on the Forever Living Origionals imprint. Cleo Sol is thought to be in the band, so is Kid Sister and Inflo. In the last 18 months they have released 3 full albums that are all thriller and no filler. Their sound in my humble opinion is incredible. It firmly falls into my wheelhouse. They cover a wide spectrum of sounds with soul firmly at the heart of everything they do. 

Like their first two releases, our album of the month Untitled (Black Is) came out of nowhere. The first time the world heard it was on the Giles Peterson show. He rated it so highly that he played the entire album on its’ first play in June. They posted on their social media upon the digital release “We present our first ‘Untitled’ album to mark a moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives. RIP George Floyd and all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism. Change is happening…We are focused.”

Focused is an understatement. From the initial ‘Out the Lies’, followed by ‘Stop Dem’, ‘Hard Life’, and ‘Don’t Shoot Guns Down’ the scene is set for the majestic ‘Wildfires’; which exudes inspiration and determination amongst deep frustration as the first half of the album swiftly pulls you in. As Sault swerve through the multi genre effort you’re continually impressed with each new sound whilst purveying the consistent message of black unity. As the album nears it’s end the message moves from frustration to hope.

Sault have released an album of heart felt, thought provoking songs that inspire and for some hopefully educate. At face value I would wonder if an album that moves through psychedelic soul, dub, reggae and spoken word within minutes of each other would work? This album does this on numerous occasions without flinching. We often talk about albums and their programming. It is 56 minutes long, 20 tracks deep with a mixture of songs and interludes. I struggle to find a track that doesn’t belong.

This album was the first in months that I was truly blown away by. Since the pre-lockdown release of RTJ4. I write this on the day that Sault announced the follow up to Untitled is imminent. More of their musical magic is on the way and I for one can’t wait!

4 comments

  1. misterstory

    I’m going to get an early reply in here but I promise I will be back with more. So. I got this and I was like oh … 20 tracks. That’s going to be ‘interesting’. And then, I saw that many of them were suspiciously short. Oh shit … SKITS I thought. So, to be fair I entered into this with some trepidation. I had heard amazing things but stepped in cautiously.

    My caution was misplaced. This is special. The spoken word tracks are mesmerising. They pull you in and speak to you. Speak at you in some instances. I genuinely think that this is important and that people should listen to it. I cringe that I have just said this but that is honestly how I feel. Since the George Floyd murder and reaction, white people have been asking what they should be reading to understand the perspective of people of colour (my answer ….anything by Angela Y. Davis). Many books have been shared. In other forums, white people have asked what films they should be watching (my answer … anything by Spike Lee but absolutely Do The Right Thing). But I’ve heard few people ask ‘what music should I be listening to?’ … if they asked me, listening to this album would be a pretty good start.

    So many chunks of creativity are important … but how many of them are also musically brilliant? Sault – Untitled (Black Is) is one of them. It’s vast. Deep. Powerful. Beautiful. Heart Breaking. Relentless. My god is it PROUD. This has been in my life for about 7-8 weeks now. It’s been a constant. I put this up there … right at the top of the musical tree.

    I just wanted to share this as some early emotions. I will be back.

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    First impressions 2 full listens in: this is a really beautiful, fully-formed piece of work. Of course I knew Wildfires, but that was pretty up-tempo and so I (mistakenly) thought we’d have a 12-track album like that. We don’t, but actually for an album that’s almost an hour long, it really just flows. I’ve not given it a headphone listen (the PHONES, people the phones) but in the background of work and relaxing it’s a really engaging listen so far.

    I definitely like the mystery here. As we talked about for Yves it’s rare and really valued. The productivity of 3 albums in a year is pretty incredible. But it’s clear what an important expression this is – so musically different but very much of its time, like RTJ4 – and so it’s something I’m going to look forward to getting more into as the month progresses.

    Excellent work brother Nolan.

  3. whyohwhyohwhy

    My god, this is pretty much a perfect album. And I didn’t think this would be either my thing, or that I’d really get so grabbed by it.

    I think there’s a few reasons for this. For starters, I think the ensemble element means that there’s a real blend of music on here – r’n’b, funk, roots/dancehall, electronic-soul, and all sorts of the edges of that – so there’s a real richness to the variation you have. But within that there’s a real ‘feel’ to the album that is very clear (and I know Joey and I are all about the feels). Added to that, the production is SO good, so clean and there’s real space to the tracks. There’s a lot of reverb and subtle sound design that means while the melodies and instrumentation are often sparse and austere, there’s a really rich, ear-filling sound to it. And that really envelops you when you listen. What that also means is that while it’s definitely a ‘headphones’ album (isn’t everything?) it’s also great on in the background, tv, all sorts. It works really well anywhere.

    But the reason this album works is the quality of the music. That’s always the bottom line, of course. But the melodies, the lyrics, the *message* just all chime, both with the times and with the musical landscape. Albums like this are really important, and you can only hope it gets the adulation it deserves. Yes, there’s an air of mystery, but it also it’s the attention is gets that’s just as vital, and hearing Wildfires so much on the radio has also been a big thing, so props to 6Music for that.

    In half a dozen listens now it just flows over you. And it’s so rich. From the chanting of Out The Lies, sounding like a protest from the deep south in Jim Crow, blending into ‘Black Is’, an emotional female voice, talking through the complexities of race in 2020, it reels you in. You realise this is an album with something to SAY. Throughout the album’s twenty tracks (and who else thought ‘oh, this is a bit long, only to find it disappears every time you listen to it?) it puts forward a powerful message, sometimes subtle – Hard Life’s heavenly melodies but harsh truths and the incredible Wildfires – other times as clear and confrontational as it needs to be – Don’t Shoot, Guns Down, and Monsters. It plays with afro-beats (Bow, with Michael Kiwanuka brilliantly employed, like all our albums streams crossed), and has such an astounding palette of music that even when you know what’s coming, it’s got something new each time. Pray Up, Stay Up’s brilliant old 60s soul / spriitual melodies, the Destiny’s Child-esque Sorry Ain’t Enough, Miracles’ What’s Going On vibes until the female spoken word chimes in to bring it into the 20s, to the Bon-Iver like Hold Me. But none of this feels like anyone else’s record, it’s very much an ensemble effort, but it feels like a single, powerful voice.

    Even the ‘skits’ or short tracks work really well. In the case of This Generation, it’s an overspill from Bow, Don’t Shoot Guns Down is under two minutes but perfection, X speaks out direct to the listener in heartfelt lyrics, as does Us. If I had one outlier, it’s June Child, which doesn’t quite seem to fit. But it’s the only minor criticism of an album that is near-on perfection.

    And of course, it’s not a work that is speaking directly to me. It emanates blackness: an empowering, beautiful message that feels emotional and full of love to me, and it’s not even the target. It’s an album that is a forceful, powerful, brilliant celebration of culture, creativity, positivity, but also spells out the lie of the land, both from history and in to the future. But my god, it does it in such a way. I haven’t listened to an album like this before that’s resonated so much musically. And it grows more and more enticing with each listen. I can only hope it resonates as much as it deserves, perhaps a sleeper hit, a slow burner. It doesn’t have record company power behind it, and it doesn’t have big radio singles. But my god, it should be the top of everyone’s list. This feels like a Top 5 of the year without question. What a choice, brother Nolan.

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