A powerfully-painted portrait of lives shaped by structural inequality, discrimination and systematic injustice
Sofie Lindevall
16:08 25th June 2021

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Last week music collective SAULT broke months of silence with a rare post on their social media channels. Nine, the group’s fifth album and the first music to be released following last year’s highly praised Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise), was announced with a statement reading: “Nine will only exist for ninety-nine days”. A countdown on the group’s website hit 99 at midnight today and the clock will continue ticking down until the album ceases to exist once more.

We still don’t know a huge amount about the (most likely) London-based music collective and, apart from writer and producer credits pointing us in the direction of Ivor Novello Awards winning producer Info, Kadeem Clarke, Cleo Sol and Kid Sister, the group has remained completely anonymous throughout. With powerful statements often surrounding Black-centric issues and racial inequality, the group has with their prior albums let the music be a force that speaks for itself - and Nine is no different.   

“Some of us are from the heart of London’s council estates where proud parents sought after safer environments to raise their families. Community is the only real genuine support & the majority of us get trapped in a systematic loop where a lot of resources & options are limited,” reads another very rare statement from the group that appeared on their Instagram account earlier this week ahead of the release. The post goes on to say: “Adults who fail to heal from childhood traumas turn to alcohol & drugs as medicine. Young girls & boys looking for leadership can get caught up in gang life”. Ending with the question “What would you do if this were you?” SAULT both set the scene for Nine and invite us to open our minds.

‘Haha’, the album’s introductory track, embeds us in an air of innocence and an almost juvenile false sense of security before the chasing base of ‘London Gangs’ hits us like brick wall. SAULT does not save on force nor intensity and it is blatantly clear from the start that it is paramount that we listen closely to what they have to say. Lyrically, the record is a powerfully-painted portrait of lives shaped by structural inequality, discrimination and systematic injustice. 

Halfway through the record, the interlude ‘Mike’s Story’ sees Michael Ofo tell us about the night he and his mum found out that his dad had been murdered. Only just shy of a minute long, the bare and heart-breaking truth doesn’t need longer to hit hard. The following half of the record is more melodic, with chant-like monotone choirs being replaced with soft vocal harmonies. Ending with the stunning track ‘Light’s in Your Hands’ and the lines “Don’t ever lose yourself / You can always start again” echoing repeatedly, SAULT leaves us with glimpses of hope after all. 

Fluent in soul, RnB and funk, SAULT move freely between a range of different styles and tempos throughout the record. Musically, a lot sounds familiar if you have been following the group over the last couple of years, but SAULT has again done what SAULT does best – created something beautiful that carries an ever so important message.

Nine is out now.

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Photo: Press