REVIEW: Sault offers up new album 'Air' for contemplation

We review Sault’s latest offering, Air; an elixir for the soul sent to refresh and uplift us from the darkness of society’s ills.

Author: Delroy Hibbert

Three years ago a new collective Sault released their first album to the world simply entitled 5. As prolific as they are mysterious, they have since followed this by a series of low-key but eagerly awaited releases in the years since.

Fast forward to 2022 and we are introduced to their latest release Air. At just seven tracks long there isn’t much to go on and at my first listen I heard what I thought was the build up and waited for the breathy voice of Cleo Sol and hard-hitting lyrics of other contributors we have become familiar with over the previous bodies of work such as Michael Kiwanuka and Little Simz.

This didn’t happen, to my surprise. And what a surprise this was, instead of broken beats or danceable tunes we are given orchestral sounds overlaid with the choral voices of the Music Confectionary choir.

This is an entirely different Sault and once you get over the shock you can only admire the bravery of venturing so deep into the unfamiliar. The tracks could be a soundtrack to an unreleased film, cinematic and dramatic yet uplifting at the same time. 

There are influences of jazz, African and Middle Eastern rhythms with the voices of the choir performing as a vocal instrument. All but one of the tracks play without lyrics which takes some time to get used to and may disappoint fans of their hard-hitting previous work.

However, to appreciate this album one should listen to it not so much as a follow up but as a natural progression. Over the past three years Sault’s founder and producer Inflo has taken us on a journey and given us a musical and lyrical reflection on contemporary issues such as Black Lives Matter, racism and gang violence.

Image: Omar Powell

If those past albums left our heads spinning with their deeply moving takes on their subject matters, Air is an elixir for the soul sent to refresh and uplift us from the darkness of society’s ills. 

To talk about individual tracks on this album would be a waste of time for they are not singles that will be remixed for the dance floor and will probably not be played by a radio station anytime soon. This is a body of work that demands to be listened to in one setting, preferably lying down with headphones or on a long drive home in silence.

However you choose to listen to this, try to do it in one sitting and let your mind roam free with the music.

Out now on bandcamp and other platforms: