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The UK's Most Mysterious Collective? What’s Next for SAULT?

By Aliki Barnes


SAULT has made waves in the music scene. Over just four years, the UK collective has released an impressive 11 albums, with five of them dropping simultaneously a year ago. Despite their meteoric rise, SAULT has maintained an air of mystery, avoiding interviews and music videos since their emergence in 2019. Featuring vocalists Kid Sister and Cleo Sol, masterfully produced by Inflo, the collective fuses a myriad of musical styles to form their own unique sound. What sets the band apart extends beyond musical ability. They use their platform to voice themes of black liberation.


Cleo Sol

Cleo Sol

Photo: Murray Chalmers PR


SAULT refreshingly maintains an elusive collective identity in a digital world where many people’s lives are publicised online. The deliberate avoidance of the spotlight steers the focus away from the superficial physical appearances of the individual members, emphasising the band's distinct sound and messaging. SAULT defies convention by not always sticking to a designated lead singer, opting instead for a mix of vocals that harmonise, creating a loosely choral sound. Their tracks feature unique elements such as distinctive chatter, spoken words, and a rich array of instruments, ranging from synths, pianos and guitars to diverse percussion and strings.


In 2019, SAULT introduced themselves with the debut track ‘We Are the Sun’ and their first album '5,' featuring a simple cover art of five simple matchsticks laid out in a tally. When it comes to SAULT, there are no bells and whistles. The subsequent release, '7,' in September 2019, received widespread acclaim. In a review for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis assessed 5 and 7, awarding each a perfect five-star rating. He described them as "fantastic, navigating a distinctive course that meanders through ESG-esque post-punk funk, early 80s boogie, and a semblance of neo-soul, all the while avoiding easy categorisation or resembling a straightforward homage."


“Once again, Sault demonstrate the power of words and just how impactful music can be. It’s impossible not to feel affected by the stories being told...”


2020 and 2021 saw the release of two powerful bodies of work – 'Untitled (Black Is)' and 'Untitled (Rise).' The unveiling of SAULT's third album on Juneteenth marked a significant moment, coinciding with widespread Black Lives Matter protests and a renewed discourse on systemic oppression against people of colour. 'Untitled (Black Is)' navigates these critical issues with a composed approach, systematically delving into them through a reflective fusion of funk, spoken word, repurposed protest chants, and soul. In the powerful track “Wildfires”, the band delves into the harrowing theme of senseless killings by law enforcement. The narrative unfolds with a description of a particular police officer’s actions, with the singer declaring “You should be ashamed” drawing attention to the bloodshed and urging the responsible party to take accountability "Another man / Take off your badge / We all know it was murder”. Despite the sorrowful tone, the singer expresses resilience and a fierce determination to stand up.


June 2021 marked the digital release of SAULT's album 'Nine,' available for only 99 days, leaving only physical copies in circulation. NME praised SAULT, highlighting the profound impact of their music by stating, “Once again, Sault demonstrate the power of words and just how impactful music can be. It’s impossible not to feel affected by the stories being told.”


Chronixx

Jamaican Singer Chronixx, a collaborator with SAULT

Photo: Vanity Fair


In April 2022, SAULT surprised audiences with the release of their sixth studio album, 'Air', on which the band featured predominantly instrumental compositions with the notable absence of SAULT's regular collaborators. Instead, the voices of the Music Confectionery choir and a string ensemble take centre stage. This distinct turn was described as a “total volte-face” by The Guardian, which added that the album “feels like the work of an artist who, having proved themselves within the pop realm, decides it’s time to pursue their grandest visions.”


"The elaborate entrance into the venue, featuring a rusted industrial tunnel and psychedelic rooms, set the stage for an immersive experience..."


In October of the same year came the release of a reggae-influenced EP '10,' including the ten- minute-long song "Angel”. The first three minutes of the track feature Jamaican singer Chronixx over a jazzy drumbeat and a repetitive lead guitar hook. However, the song takes a surprising twist, transitioning into a piano-led ballad with Chronixx persisting on the theme of Zion, complemented by a beautiful soulful chorus. A spoken word passage then begins, leading to the song's conclusion, which essentially feels like a third piece, a gentle acoustic song fading out with a "Soul Rebel" chorus. This marks yet another distinctive shift for a group seemingly devoted to keeping its audience in constant anticipation.


November 2022 was also a key moment as the collective simultaneously dropped a staggering five albums as a free download, '11,' 'AIIR,' 'Earth,' 'Today & Tomorrow,' and 'Untitled (God),' amounting to 56 tracks in total. It appears SAULT are single-handedly changing the music scene and drastically raising the bar for artists worldwide. The astonishing splurge of releases at the end of 2022 left fans hungry for more, and SAULT did not disappoint. In November last year, they announced their first live show in London’s Drumsheds (a former IKEA superstore) teasing fans with the promise of performing unreleased material. Acts of Faith, the aptly named debut show, justified its uniqueness despite the initial scepticism surrounding the £99 ticket price. The elaborate entrance into the venue, featuring a rusted industrial tunnel and psychedelic rooms, set the stage for an immersive experience. The production, including a full-blown orchestra, a choir of 40 singers, and a live band inside a space landing vessel, showcased SAULT's commitment to delivering a memorable experience.


Little Simz

Another collaborator with SAULT, Little Simz

Photo: NME


As SAULT continues to unwrap the layers of their musical narrative, the question lingers – what's next for this mysterious outfit? With a history marked by surprise releases, collaborations with industry giants, and a ground-breaking live performance, SAULT's future holds the promise of innovation and shock. The upcoming collaboration with André 3000 and the success of their live performance provide a glimpse into the creative depths yet to be explored.


As fans eagerly anticipate the next chapter in the SAULT saga, one thing remains certain, whatever unfolds is unlikely to be anything short of extraordinary. The combination of musical skill and mystery, and a penchant for the unexpected guarantees that SAULT will continue to keep fans guessing and applauding as they challenge the status quo in music.

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