sun 29/01/2023

Albums of the Year 2022: Sault - Untitled (God), Today & Tomorrow, 11, Earth, AIIR | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2022: Sault - Untitled (God), Today & Tomorrow, 11, Earth, AIIR

Albums of the Year 2022: Sault - Untitled (God), Today & Tomorrow, 11, Earth, AIIR

Sault's five-album drop gave us so much to love, it almost defied belief

It’s always hard to choose one album to spotlight come the annual Best Ofs, and 2022 has given us an extraordinary embarrassment of riches to choose from – the bountiful bastard…

January brought with it a small but perfectly formed under-the-radar gem in Bed Wetter’s A Life in the Day. A deeply personal piece, it saw producer Geoff Kirkwood removing his Man Power mask and letting us in to his world of gorgeous, atmospheric sound sculptures.

Andy Bell’s Flicker followed. A double album of wide-eyed eclecticism, Bell’s second solo outing felt simultaneously new and nostalgic. It was, without doubt, a high watermark, the sheer skill and scope of the collection marking it out as his very own White Album.

Then March saw the release of Topical Dancer, by Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul. Fusing experimental electronica with dancefloor dramatics and lyrics that perfectly skewer the current climate with humour and intelligence, the Belgian duo’s debut is a stunning standout.

And the hits, as they say, kept on coming: Israel’s Shen released their second album, TIA TUA, a truly sensational collection of psychedelic indie dance; producer Bonar Bradbury drew back the curtain on his Vyvyan alias and delivered, in Y, an album of exquisitely paced dancefloor detonations; and Danger Mouse dropped his first hip hop LP in the best part of two decades with Roots rapper Black Thought – the practically flawless Cheat Codes.

So yeah… choosing one album is hard. Thankfully, the soul-funk-RnB collective Sault, led by producer Inflo ensured I don’t have to. Initially arriving as a free download in November of this year, and later available via their Bandcamp page and on streaming sites, their five-album drop was a breathtaking display of range and belief. Of themselves and of something else…

Dedicated to God, the albums are all infused with a rare religious piety, but there’s something even more fundamental at work. From the irresistible funk and afrobeat grooves present on 11, to the Black-Sabbath-as-school-band rock grooves of Today & Tomorrow, this is Sault at their visceral best, each track hooking hard with a fierce physicality. Theirs is that rare marriage of rhythm and melodic refrain that grabs hold and refuses to let go – affecting the listener from the inside out.

Even on the quieter, reflexive and refined AIIR (the follow-up to last year’s AIR), they play to emotion first and head second, with stirring vocal surges and gentle, string-led swells that Charles Stepney would have been proud of. Earth, meanwhile, contains some of the most out-and-out pop moments across all five albums, but surrounds them with a percussive pulse, raw and thrilling.

All of these elements coalesce in the 21-track celebratory centrepiece Untitled (God). Long and occasionally sprawling, it demands the rarest of cotemporary commoddities - an attention span. Come to it with time and willing, and it will repay you over and over. 

Releasing five albums of this calibre in one go is a stunning achievement by anyone's standards. Given context, it’s almost unbelievable. In just three years, Sault have released no fewer than 11 albums and one single (the triptych track X). What’s more, they have done so without ever seeming to dip in quality, invention or assurance.

That’s something to believe in.

 

Two more essential albums of 2022

Mark Peters – Red Sunset Dreams (Sonic Cathedral)

Shen - TIA TUA (Garzen)

Gig of the year

Grace Jones at Kite Festival, Oxford

Track of the year

Men I Trust – "Billy Toppy"

@jahshabby

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