Sault is probably the most mysterious band in existence: from the names or merely the number of members, very little is known about the British R&B group. Interviews are not given, music videos are also omitted, and their six albums have all been released without announcement. One could think that the band only wants to focus on the music – and it works: Sault appear out of nowhere, and after one year thousands are already buying their vinyls. Singer Cleo Sol and producer Inflo, the latter known for collaborations with The Kooks, Little Simz and Adele, are the only publicly known members of the band, and their rhythmic tracks are somewhere between neo-soul and funk – with arrangements in which each instrument has a predetermined place to give space to the skillful compositions. The result invites you to dance and already provided Sault with nominations for several music awards, such as the Mercury Prize. The first two singles, We Are the Sun and Don’t Waste My Time, are generating hype for the band in 2019 and bring them attention from other musicians and the press for their debut album 5. The Mystery Funk Machine, as the Guardian calls the band, is making an impression from the first song with excellent songwriting, defined production and standout vocal performances – the group knows its musical path, yet is open to ventures on all sides that challenge the R&B terrain they’ve trodden before.
On Let Me Go, for example, their willingness to experiment is expressed when the warm sound of the recording is suddenly interrupted by distorted synthesizers – without notice, and as we all know, that suits the band. On Bandcamp, the debut album ranks #2 among the best albums of the year, and just a few months later Sault bring their second vinyl, titled 7, to the light of day. Here they continue what they started on 5, literally obligating listeners to dance while the lyrics are often political. “Everyone has a gun / Counting bullets like their Haribos,” they sing on Living In America, clearly positioning themselves against US gun culture. In 2020, with the two albums Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise), they provide the soundtrack to the protests following the violent death of George Floyd. The Afrobeat influenced songs celebrate being black while embodying society’s anger at racist police violence, as well as mourning for the victims of an oppressive system. In doing so, they strike a tone that sounds encouraging rather than despairing, speaking to us with brutal honesty: “Take off your badge / We all know it was murder.” Sault inspire us to find strength in crisis. “Change is happening…We are focused,” they proclaim in the wake of the release.
In 2021, their album Nine follows. In doing so, they make the digital version available for only 99 days, as well as vinyl distribution, until the record disappears from the public eye once again. Sault keep themselves exclusive as they grow – with the album they then finally enter the British charts, ironically at No. 99. This time Little Simz is also featured, and stylistically the work ties in with its rebellious predecessors, while the lyrics tell of growing up in London, occasionally dipping into hip hop realms. In turn, there’s hardly any singing on the symphonic-tinged Air, and yet Sault deliver a personal album that sounds like none of their earlier works. At the same time, they help Inflo, the genius behind the project, become the first black producer to win the BRIT Award for Producer of the Year 2022. And rightly so, because the anonymous collective has been releasing one masterpiece after another since its inception – and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.