An absurd achievement
Luke Winstanley
15:39 21st November 2022

More about:

If there’s anything at all we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that SAULT - the famously anonymous UK based music collective - are special. Arriving with the critically acclaimed 5 and 7, both released in 2019, the group have since gone on to develop a remarkably versatile, well respected discography, incorporating blues, R&B, soul, funk and on this year’s Air, they decided to go full on classical because, why not? Apart from producer Inflo, who appears to be the central creative figure behind them, the details surrounding their revolving door of collaborators are still almost completely unknown, and each release is stealthily unleashed upon the masses with very little warning or fanfare.

Six albums in three years would be impressive by any metric, but now, a further five albums have been gifted to us, initially made available via download for five days. With these records now all accessible on streaming platforms, it seems like a great opportunity to evaluate them in their entirety. 

Today & Tomorrow

While these are the most sonically diverse collection of tracks the group have conceived so far, it’s the strength and consistency of the writing which must be applauded. Today & Tomorrow sees them operating on a frequency we’ve not really heard thus far, straddling frenetic punk brilliance along with psychedelia tinged grooves and beautifully melancholic blues. Opener ‘In the Beginning’ builds on these elements wonderfully, its tempo increasing incrementally as the track moves towards a soulful, subtle conclusion. ‘The Plan’ and ‘Money’ are punctuated by searing, buzz saw guitars and cathartic gang vocals while ‘The Return’ mesmerises in its fragile simplicity. ‘Sault’ and ‘wild wig outs’ are not phrases you would necessarily mention regularly in tandem, but thrilling coda ‘Above the Sky’ delivers this and then some, further cementing their chameleonic abilities - (8/10). 


Earth displays a much clearer emphasis on African music, however, it’s perhaps the most successful at balancing SAULT's huge array of influences and deserves to be held in the same regard as their previous career high watermarks ‘Untitled (Black Is)’ and ‘Untitled (Rise)’ from 2020. Delicately constructed rhythms and gentle keys form the basis of highlight ‘God Is in Control’, underpinned by a stunning vocal refrain. Then there’s the truly epic, eight minute ‘The Lords With Me’ which channels the visceral psych-funk of Santana’s ‘Soul Sacrifice’. Impressively, these are interwoven with more contemporary cuts like the pulsing ‘Valley of the Ocean’ - think Beyonce circa Lemonade - and ‘Stronger’s haunting 70’s soul. One could quite easily argue the latter to be the collective’s best track to date, decorated in gorgeous strings which glide hazily in and out of focus - (9/10). 

Untitled (God)

Clocking in at 73 minutes, Untitled (God) is the longest of the five releases and as a result feels somewhat bloated, lacking the consistency of the aforementioned records. However, there are enough moments of genius to make it worth your time. Here, the musical hue shifts once again, this time embracing aspects of gospel (‘God Is on Your Side’) as well as glossy R&B (‘Faith’ and ‘God in Disguise’) to great effect. It’s just a shame that these are undercut with too many inessential tracks - (7/10).


If SAULT do have anything close to resembling a default sound, then it’s the snappy neo soul evident on 11 but it too suffers from similar issues. Despite starting superbly - ‘Morning Sun’ and ‘Together’ are particularly infectious - its slightly insipid second half soon begins to sag. ‘Jack’s Gift’ is lovely, but it’s nothing more than four minutes of ambient noodling and doesn’t add a great deal - (7/10).  


Even for a group known for surprising their audience, the sudden release of the orchestral Air earlier this year was an unexpected, controversial detour away from their usual work. Aiir is another sumptuous classical effort, essentially functioning as a sequel or companion piece and at 5 tracks and 25 minutes it presents a more focused, leaner and less indulgent collection than its predecessor. Glorious instrumentation and beautifully varied arrangements elevate ‘Hiding Moon’ and ‘Still Waters’ to soaring heights, the former accompanied by an elegant staccato rhythm - (8/10).

Quite frankly, this is all an utterly absurd achievement when you consider the ambition, sheer amount of content, dazzling blend of genres and masterful songwriting on display. SAULT, it would appear, have an almost limitless capacity to astound and excite. 

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

More about:

Photo: -