2 of 2020’s best albums: Sault’s Untitled, (Black Is) and Untitled, (Rise)

album cover for Untitled Black Is
Sault’s Untitled, (Black Is)

No sooner had artists from all walks of life just about managed to persuade the world that no, the pandemic was not in fact the perfect opportunity to finally get around to producing that masterpiece. And that, on the contrary, crafting anything of substance was, sneer, a little more complicated than that, along come Sault with not one two stunning albums, both of which are double albums, and neither of which have a semblance of filler in sight.

Sault’s Untitled, (Rise).

Worse again, the first, Untitled (Black Is) seems to have been propelled into existence in response to the murder of George Floyd, on May 25th, and was released, in quiet anger, barely four weeks later in June. With Untitled (Rise) appearing but 12 weeks later. So that’s a brace of apparently hastily conceived double albums over the course of the summer, after the pair of equally impressive albums they released at the end of 2019 – ‘5’ and ‘7’.

Sault’s ‘5’.

Then there’s the question of who exactly ‘they’ are. Sault do neither promotion nor publicity. And not in the we’re-uncomfortable-in-the-limelight limelit interview way, there’s genuinely almost nothing about them, anywhere. The two principles appear to be the London–based producer Inflo and the RnB singer Cleo Sol, who are joined by a handful of the performers signed to their record label, Forever Living Originals. 

The two albums mirror and echo one another, with, on paper, Black Is producing the more sombre meditation and Rise the more danceable beats. But truth be told, they both dive and glide from menacing gloom to confident joy and back. And the mood conjured up by both albums can best be summed up by the latter’s title, ‘rise’, being at once triumphantly upbeat and confrontationally revolutionary.

Sault’s ‘7’.

Musically, we move from 70s’ RnB and the pre-disco soul of Luther Vandross to the carefully considered mashups of the Avalanches, and that turn of the century moment when dance, funk and triphop coalesced. And each album is marbled with tracks built on afro-Cuban beats, sending the sounds back to where it all began.

Exceptional albums from an embarrassingly fecund basement somewhere in the former metropolis of London, England. You can see hear the standout track Widlfires from Black Is here:

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