SAULT’s Untitled siblings came out three months apart in the midst of a volatile time in the US. It turned out that the pandemic had only just begun for us when the murder of George Floyd spread like wildfire, flanked by recent stories of the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Just a few weeks later, on Juneteenth, the mysterious UK group SAULT released Untitled (Black Is). To say that the date was a coincidence would be to wilfully ignore the fact that violence towards people of color is chronic, yet the 20-track album is still a marvel. It is simultaneously grounding and uplifting, despondent and hopeful, wielding the power of unification in order to usher in revolution.
The September record called Untitled (Rise) is a dynamic, funky counter-balance to the percussive, old-school soul featured on its predecessor. Where (Rise) features bold instrumentation including lush strings and textured synths, (Black Is) keeps it mainly acoustic, built upon a diverse pageant of drums, echoing vocals, and hidden basslines. There are cuts, usually of vocals, that give the record depth beyond the mix—and when several voices join together, it is enrapturing. Even while listening in solitude, you are not alone.
The late-summer LP’s title was a running motif through (Black Is) as well, especially on “Miracle,” a doo-wop skit that winds down in a round of, “No matter how high/I will rise/We will rise.” That said, the albums each feature separate messages: the first to heal and embolden, and the second to organize and fight. Across several tracks, and not just the ones that explicitly feature its namesake phrase, (Black Is) offers a portrait of Black and brown experience.
“Black is ‘there’s still meat on that bone, lil girl!’” – “Out the Lies”
“We all know Black is beautiful…Black is excellent too” – “Black Is”
“We have walked in silence, we have expressed our voices, people have died. … Nobody listened, nobody cared. This generation cares.” – “This Generation” feat. Laurette Josiah
(Black Is) is a resistance opus: it acknowledges perseverance, tears down institutions, and uplifts participants in the revolution. Specifically, this is for people of color—white people, we cannot point to this album and celebrate; this is a reminder that our privilege must be redirected for the reasons enumerated therein. We can be the force to affect change in real ways but only with the careful consideration of the experiences of people of color.