Sault’s new album “Nine”: an album in the process of disappearing in ephemeral times


Nothing is certain these days, other than perhaps power surges and taxes. So in June, when the enigmatic British collective Sault announced that their new album Nine would be available for only 99 days, until October 2, it felt like a fitting tribute to our fleeting times. Naturally, the struggle to find stability is at the heart of much of the music on the album. The songs suggest that the lovers, the moods and even the lives are as fleeting as their supposedly “self-destructive” record.

What is also implied by this very deployment is that art, in the age of applications, is a sacred thing to say the least. Some kind of rebel will fuck you on algorithm-based streaming platforms, Nine evokes the burning spirit of Abbie Hoffman’s counter-culture manifesto Steal this book.

There have been other albums in this mold – notably, that of Jay Electronica. Act II: The Patents of Nobility (Le Tour), which aired last year on TIDAL, before disappearing a few months later. But no other album in recent memory has had a dominant launch that’s as provocative as its protest-worthy themes.

What are the implications here? On the one hand, you could be more practical in your listening experience. If you research the music independently, you might find other, possibly “unauthorized”, ways to download it. The critically acclaimed record therefore invites you to consider other modes of engagement. Methods beyond the control of the company.

And surely after this past year, as long and heartbreaking as it has been, alternative ways of thinking are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. In addition to a global pandemic, the deaths of Breyonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Atatiana Jefferson and others at the hands of the police illustrated the extremely harsh conditions black people face when they just try to exist. .

Sault dances with that specific existential despair, both light and deadly serious. How do you take time for humor, for romance, for bonding and loving in times of unprecedented crisis? Bad luck in the end. There is a point about halfway through the remarkable track “Fear”, where an almost indifferent voice buzzes, “pain is real”, as if it were a funeral mantra for the distracted and distracted. the oppressed. The song opens with the lyrics “You fear, the rage / Night, cries / Dark, lies”, which sound, in the singer’s disembodied plea like a siren, like a macabre schoolyard song. Except here, they cause intergenerational trauma like trash talk on a playground, signaling that these moods are deeply ingrained and festering, informed by lifetimes of shared experiences.

Here is our mysterious man, it looks like he is almost laughing at us. “You can’t pretend,” he hums, as if to say: “You can’t make this shit up. ”

The whole myth of the group seems shrouded in mystery. Formed in 2019, its members are reportedly Cleo Sol, Michael Kiwanuka, Laurette Josiah, producer Inflo, Chicago-based trailblazer, Kid Sister, and rapper Little Simz. They do not do any interviews and their presence on social networks is limited to a few extracts from their discography published on their Instagram. Sault’s insistence on keeping things low-key suggests they view their music (and its outreach potential) as more important than garnering likes.

Elsewhere on the album, such as in the “Bitter Streets” breeze, dealing with this particular form of madness has never sounded so sweet. It’s a comfortable boss-nova bop reminiscent of the Astrud Gilberto peak. On the track, a singer who most think is musician Cleo Sol hums about being trapped in a violent but blatant love affair. You feel the only reason she stays with her partner is because she thinks she has to. Because their injury – dating back to childhood – is what ultimately unites them, even if it will inevitably undo them: don’t go / I fell in love with the streets.

Anyone who has ever been in a dead end relationship can understand. But what the singer does by also speaking to her lover’s obligatory attraction to the streets is subtly and soulfully adding another much-needed layer of depth. It resonates today, as so many partners, wives and mothers of slain black men courageously step forward to speak out about the inequalities and violence in our culture – all the while continuing to cry.

Rightly so, “Trap Life” is all about sustaining when you live on the fringes of said culture and could be killed by the police as easily as by your peers. Here, thrilling bass behind a

A deranged go-go rhythm drives a demented Greek chorus that announces, “Trap life / Yeah, we’re trapping these blocks / And we don’t trust these cops / Tell me shoot, shoot, shoot. ”

In a singing taunt that sounds like the helium inhaled by the children of the corn, the group insists that “I want to be free / Free my family and my mind / Because we’re locked inside / If it please don’t reach that. 9 ”

There’s a haunting linguistic subtext at play. Sault’s advice against getting a .9 could be likened to advice to someone not to seek out, say, a license or a form of. registration. Both acts, the song reminds us, are almost as overwhelming in any situation where black people interact with cops. On the other hand, Sault has already taken on the worst: You were born into this unfair cycle and must defend yourself – a gun is probably enough. Don’t resort to it, for heaven’s sake.

For 99 days, Sault made the affliction brazen, like a sneering vote of confidence written in invisible ink. “Alcohol” is not so much an admission as it is a sort of resigned mockery: “Oh-oh, alcohol / This time you won.” The singer, on soft and muffled keys, somehow manages to make it all sound like a courageous response. Meanwhile, with their strangely cheerful improvisations, the choristers encourage him by literally recounting his missteps (“One step forward, two steps back”). In other words, why not just drop the proverbial life glass half full? Nine may not be here long, but it’s here for a long time.


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