SAUL enlist the help of talented friends for their new EP – a feel good, summer-ready soundtrack, bursting with uplifting synths and groove-heavy broken beatsSAUL, is a joint project from the minds of Jack Stephenson-Oliver (keys player of fellow Rhythm Section INTL signee, Vels Trio) and producer Barney Whittaker, aka Footshooter.
With the success of their individual projects – Vels are soon to embark on a tour across the UK and Europe and Footshooter is growing from strength to strength following releases on Astral Black and Dance Regular – it’s exciting to hear what the duo will think up next.
When the two of them get together their jam sessions result in a fusion of jazz and broken beat. Atmospheric keys and synths interweave with programmed drums, laying the perfect ground for the all star cast of featured artists assembled for this record.
Collaboration is a key element to the creative output of SAUL, shining a light over individual and collective talents. Their second release, Mutualism, promises a stellar line-up of musical interaction. In the words of Barney, “the feature performances are all very different, the way they worked on the tracks really brought each one to life in a big way”.
The project starts with the sounds of sunrise. Opening with The Light, is Allysha Joy, a member of another group on Rhythm Section’s roster, 30/70. She crafts uplifting melodies that move gracefully through bouncy Rhodes chords. This track shines with sun-focused energy and up beat grooves that provide the perfect soundtrack for long summer festival days.
On Coalesce, featuring South London MC Natty Wylah, lofty, cloud-like atmospheres are built above classic Moog synths. The hypnotic bass and lead notes are equal parts hopeful, eerie and curious, matching the optimistic promise offered by Wylah’s hook: ‘don’t you want to find somewhere better?’. Subjects flow from party-focused lyrics to poetic streams of consciousness as Natty adopts a dreamy sung delivery by the end of the track.
The Ep comes to a serene close with a feature from ‘aden’ – recipient of the 2021 Fred Perry x Nicholas Daley Music Grant. The early image of sunlight may have faded, but the energetic focus of the project never dies. Swirling synths circle around sharp bass stabs, with a driving bassline taking over into the hook.
Other major features include the unmistakable tone of Lex Amour. During Flowers, her laid back, spoken style is accompanied by a slowed down G-Funk-inspired instrumental. With an illustrious list of collaborators already to her name (such as Kojey Radical, Wulu, George Riley and Ego Ella Mae) and sell out shows across the country, she makes her lyrical prowess evident. Lex effortlessly switches between rhythmical flows to hypnotic layered melodies – elevating the production to another level in the process.
The synergy between producers and vocalists is evident; the collaborations equal far more than the sum of their parts. In ‘Mutualism’ we see Saul’s vision fully come to fruition. The synergy is apparent, the possibilities – endless and the respect – mutual.
Aside from the Vocal guest appearance, Mutualism is also packed with instrumental cameos. SAUL turn to Ezra Collective’s sax player James Mollison on the track Can’t Wait. The seasoned five-piece are set to perform alongside the modern day jazz pioneer Kamasi Washington later this year. Mollison shows his range on this song as energy flows from soaring highs to long sustained lows, allowing a hint of dub influence to come to light.
SAUL’s newest release signals two musicians at the height of their artistic expression, drawing resources and influences from wherever is inspiring them most. This collaborative methodology produces a sound that is constantly evolving, illuminating new faces and sounds with each project that passes.