Santigold – ‘Spirituals’ review: fearless sonic pioneer leads the pack once again

Four albums on from her epochal 2008 debut ‘Santogold’, the artist proves she's still at the head of the experimental musical stampede she started

It’s too often the fate of the sonic pioneer to be subsumed by their own innovation, unable to escape the monster they created. In the late-‘00s, alongside M.I.A., Santigold – aka Santi White – was pivotal in dove-tailing rap, pop and dancefloor anthems such as ‘Creator’, ‘Say Aha’ and ‘L.E.S. Artistes’ with experimental future-trash electronics. Now everyone is doing it and, just four albums on from her 2008 debut ‘Santogold’, Santi is merely part of the herd that she herself set stampeding.

Which is not to say that ‘Spirituals’ isn’t amongst the finer examples of this overdone form. Santigold has undoubtedly been tainted by the practice, but has kept at least close to the sonic forefront. Sweetly understated opener ‘My Horror’, for instance, combines electronic pops and plucks of ukulele into a minimalist synthetic tropicalia that suggests ‘Paper Planes’ winding down in a hammock on St Kitts.

‘Shake’ is built around a ‘60s indebted future funk beat that threatens to fall apart every few bars, giving the impression of a glitching holographic recreation of an Aretha Franklin gig in a hi-tech pop-up Baptist church in the Docklands. And ‘The Lasty’, with its warped wormhole trills and coos, sounds like a deep space echo of the Kate Bush revival bouncing off some faraway dwarf star. To her credit, she keeps the tubular EDM touches to a minimum and – besides the rap-pop ‘High Priestess’, on which she establishes in no uncertain terms her elemental rule over the bedroom – the themes above the belt.

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‘My Horror’ brings a bubblegum tone to the topic of psychological collapse, while the ambient dance ‘Nothing’ delves into the mentality of being beaten down by an abusive relationship: “All you ever told me, I could be nothing” Santi sings amid menacing sighs like a stalker’s phone call. ‘Ushers Of The New World’, a corrupted dub with a saccharine melody, appears to confront the climate catastrophe (“will we change or will we die?”) and the screwed reggae of ‘No Paradise’ talks of the “power in our struggle”.

‘Spirituals’ gets more brutalist as it goes on, weaving its way from tropical space-pop through cosmic reggae to the gothic R&B cranks and coils of ‘Ain’t Ready’ and, finally, to ‘Fail First’, a wonderfully New Order-ish concoction of indietronic chug, industrial grunge guitars, spectral cheerleader chants and punkoid yells. And so it is that Santigold starts really feeling a frontliner battler again.

Details

Santigold Spirituals album art

Release date: September 9

Record label: Little Jerk Records

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