British soul collective Sault have broken almost every rule of album-making during their brief career. Debuting in 2019, they’ve already released 11 studio albums; yet they’ve never played live or given an interview. Their already sizeable catalogue has taken in everything from smooth R&B to raw post-punk, gospel-tinged soul to classical works.
The collective is centered around Inflo, a drummer and producer who’s been compared to a young Quincy Jones. Inflo’s also worked on acclaimed albums with Adele, Little Simz, and Michael Kiwanuka, but his main focus is clearly Sault. He’s joined by vocalists Cleo Sol and Kid Sister, as well as an array of guests.
On the first of November, 2022, Sault dropped five new albums, almost doubling the size of their catalogue. How do these new releases stack up against their earlier records?
Sault Albums Ranked
#11 Today & Tomorrow
Sault’s most rock-oriented album is also their slightest. It sounds like most of its songs are worked up from studio jams, with guitar, drums, and bass laid down first, and vocals fitted over the top. It’s exhilarating when it works – the opener ‘In The Beginning’ is vibrant and exciting. It’s fun to hear Sault with dirty guitars, but Today & Tomorrow is lighter on great songs than the rest of Sault’s catalogue.
Sault’s second album features reliably excellent grooves, but it’s light on memorable songs compared to their debut. You’d think that the absence of instrumentals would result in a more substantial album, but Sault’s instrumental tracks are usually strong. Cleo Sol’s lush ‘Friends’ is my favourite song, while Kid Sister is in fine form on ‘Living in America’ and ‘No Bullshit’.
Inflo could have rested on his laurels after a series of terrific Sault albums, as well as producing acclaimed records for Little Simz and Michael Kiwanuka. Instead, he turned his attention to classical music, creating the classical album as Air. It’s not purely classical – Inflo’s background in R&B is evident in his composing style, while there are world music elements in the closer ‘Luos Higher’, named for the Luo people of Kenya.
If you haven’t heard Nine already, it’s difficult to do so – Sault only kept it on streaming services for 99 days, although it’s still floating around YouTube. As the title implies, it’s in the same vein as their other numbered albums, like 5, 7, and XI – rhythm-focused and minimalist. It’s more autobiographical than usual, referencing the group members’ experiences growing up on London streets as a minority. Cleo Sol’s vocal on ‘Light’s In Your Hand’ is gorgeous, but generally, the strongest material is the rhythm-heavy songs like ‘Trap Life’ and ‘Bitter Streets’.
Inflo’s second classical album shows growth from his first. It’s brief, with its five pieces all clocking in under six minutes – due to this format, they feel more like songs than before. The opening pair of pieces – ‘4am’ and ‘Hiding Moon’ – are memorable and propulsive. The closing soul section of ‘5am’ provides a bridge to the group’s song-based work.
Sault dropped five albums on 1 November 2022, free for download with the password “godislove”. 11 continues the tradition of the numbered Sault albums – taut and minimalist funk grooves. The use of guest vocalists like Chronixx on ‘Fear No One’ and (I think?) Jack Peñate duetting with Cleo Sol on ‘Envious’ helps to keep things fresh. The strident vocal on ‘Higher’ is unusually direct than usual for Sault.
#5 Untitled (Rise)
Sault’s second album of 2020 followed Untitled (Black Is) by a mere three months. Like its predecessor, it’s fuelled by a desire for change in a world beset by racial tensions. Untitled (Rise) is the lesser of the band’s 2020 albums, but it has its share of great moments. The acerbic ‘You Know It Ain’t’ is striking, with Kid Sister delivering lines like “Yeah I see your little post, talking ’bout “BLM is my motto”/But you know it ain’t”. The group’s knack for lovely material continues unabated – ‘Son Shine’ and ‘Fearless’ are highlights.
#4 Untitled (God)
Faith has always been an important part of Sault’s music, and it’s at the forefront of Untitled (God). A smorgasbord of guest stars drop by to share their thoughts on God on this eclectic record. Little Simz’s verse on ‘Free’ (the second Sault song with that name) is a high point. The spoken tracks interrupt the flow, but Sault’s forays into 1980s-flavoured synth-pop on tracks like ‘Faith’ and ‘God in Disguise’ are some of their best moments.
Earth is the most eclectic of Sault’s 2022 albums – the gospel-infused R&B of Untitled (God), the rhythm-focused XI, and the post-punk of Today & Tomorrow are all represented here. There’s also a strong African influence that seeps into the closing tracks. The gorgeous piano balladry of ‘Valley of the Ocean’, the elegant simplicity of ‘Stronger’, and the beautifully sung ‘God Is In Control’ are all highlights.
Arriving anonymously, Sault needed a strong first record to announce themselves to the world. The funky ‘Up All Night’ is a great opening gambit for the band, and 5 remains one of their best records. The collective blends 1970s funk and soul with a modern production sheen. ‘We Are The Sun’ is a lovely anthem, while ‘Why Why Why Why Why’ recalls the smooth sophistication of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The trippy instrumentals like ‘Pink Sand’ and ‘Wild Hundreds’ also add a lot to the record.
#1 Untitled (Black Is)
Sault’s third album is charged with emotion. In the year of the George Floyd murder, Sault accompanied the album with a press release. “We present our first ‘Untitled’ album to mark a moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives. RIP George Floyd and all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism. Change is happening…We are focused.” Running almost an hour, Untitled (Black Is) is a smorgasbord of riches – Michael Kiwanuka sings over the psychedelic guitars of ‘Bow’, while ‘Eternal Life’ is gorgeous. ‘Wildfires’ combines a gentle funk groove with a gorgeous vocal, and remains Sault’s definitive song.
What’s your favourite Sault album?
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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