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SAULT - Air Music Album Reviews

SAULT - Air Music Album Reviews
In a dramatic departure from their previous output, the UK collective taps into the spirituality of choral music and contemporary classical in an uplifting, celebratory, utterly gorgeous album.

SAULT’s aim, since its inception, is to twirl through every hue in the kaleidoscope of Black existence. The enigmatic UK collective—which, despite their aversion to the media, is agreed by most to be helmed by producer and songwriter Inflo, whose real name is Dean Josiah Cover—has run through a slew of musical styles and themes in service of that goal. They laid out their thesis with 2019’s 5 and 7, a fuzzed-out collection of minimalist funk songs about pride, the struggle, and everything in between. They sharpened their focus the following year with another pair of albums released while the Black Lives Matter movement was at a height of international attention—Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise)—putting a finer point on the particulars of protest and the importance of keeping the faith while swerving into Afrobeat-inspired territory. Their next album, NINE, dove into the murky depths of trauma and anger, juxtaposing those feelings against uneasy humor with nursery rhymes. It’s tempting to read their releases as a Kübler-Ross-esque model of intergenerational grief, but the Black experience is far too manifold to be so easily simplified. There’s always cause to mourn and reflect, but there’s just as much reason to celebrate and to uplift.

AIR—the group’s sixth album in only three years—tilts the balance back toward the positive. In a drastic turn from their previous output, SAULT have cast aside almost all of their identifiable hallmarks; gone are the funky rhythms, driving disco beats, and soulful crooning. As opener “Reality” begins with a crescendo of strings, horns, and a classical choir, your first thought might be that you’ve put on a record that should be filed closer to the choral works of György Ligeti. Sonically, there’s little anchoring AIR to the group’s previous output, but its themes still zero in on a critical element of the Black experience: the need for self-care and celebration of individual Blackness.

And as the group makes a sharp pivot to lush contemporary classical, they take the opportunity to remind us that even a style of music seen as traditionally European has been deeply influenced by Black innovators. “Luos Higher” makes plucked stringed instruments and chants its centerpiece, drawing influence from the music of the Luo people of Kenya for whom the track is named. The delicate string work of “Heart” conjures the specter of an Alice Coltrane spiritual journey, while the nearly 13-minute symphonic suite “Solar” calls back to the exuberance of Julius Eastman’s kinetic masterpiece Femenine with its twinkling pitched percussion. Every piece on AIR wears its heart on its sleeve, conveying an emotional urgency that makes the album feel like SAULT’s most personal body of work, despite being mostly wordless.

Unbound by the limitation of language to convey meaning, AIR leans into the spiritual effect sound has on the mind and body. As “June 55” ratchets up the intensity with dissonant flourishes and a tidal wave of vocals and horn blasts, the moment that tension releases feels like a relief—a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. When a harmonious roll of voice and brass moves in to fill the space left behind, there’s a sense of triumph. Without being told how to feel, one can simply feel; the music meets you where you are.

“Time Is Precious” offers a faint trace of the familiar SAULT of albums past, and the most direct acknowledgment of the significance of their genre metamorphosis. The track slowly builds itself up to the stratosphere, vocal harmonies and orchestral swells surging sky high as it speeds through several movements like a pocket-sized Philip Glass opera. Reaching its peak, the layers quickly fall away as an intelligible vocal appears for the first and only time, imploring the listener to use their precious time wisely. “Life will always bring its pressures,” the choir sings in a gospel-style vocal. “Use it wise and keep those treasures.” As the track winds down, the choir becomes muffled as if being heard through the doors of a church foyer. It serves as a comforting reminder: the refrain will play on whether you’re there or not, and you’re always welcome to return when you’re in need of reassurance.

Though Cover doesn’t give interviews, his short public statement in response to being named Producer of the Year by the BRIT Awards—the first time a Black artist has won the prestigious prize since its 1977 inception—is revealing. “All the Black producers before me, I’m in awe and have studied you,” he said. “I am you.” For him, digging deep into the history of great Black musicians wasn’t only an exercise in mastering a diverse range of genres; he wanted to understand their hardships, their triumphs, and how it informed the art they made. Music about the Black experience often feels timely, and it rarely matters if it was made for 1971 or 2022. As long as the cycle of hurt, the necessity for action, and the need for healing remains unbroken, music made for every point on the spectrum retains something that could be useful to another person down the line. With AIR, Cover intends to pass on an important message: love being Black, but don’t forget to love yourself.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
SAULT - Air Music Album Reviews SAULT - Air Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, April 28, 2022 Rating: 5

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