The often repeated line last year was that Sault, a tightly knit but mostly invisible collective working with producer Inflo, were running their own album of the year competition. This was so widely posited because either of the double albums they released in 2020 – (Untitled) Rise and Untitled (Black Is) – would’ve both won armfuls of awards for their innovation and creativity whilst also facing down the omnipresent blight of societal racism and inequality with a dignified sense of anger.
Whether that approach was sustainable in the wake of the politicised apathy that’s taken hold since is a question unlikely to be answered, but regardless Nine has a very different focus, centering on life in communities affected most directly by it, whether it be those impacted by street violence (London Gangs, the haunting, spoken word Mike’s Story) or who have violence practiced on them (Trap Life).
Whilst elementally the basics are the same – scratchy funk, uplifting soul, nuanced R&B – the neo-sixties kitsch of Bitter Streets and the hopscotch chant of opener Haha veer off in unlikely directions. But it’s the closing tracks 9 and Light’s In Your Hands that offer at least some hope, linked by a monologue that should also explain much in a human way for anybody who listens. Nine has no interest in earning statuettes, they don’t stop bullets. Sault though will bring us together, one brilliant episode at a time.
You can read the full review here.