Sinister sounds and vulnerable thoughts
Accomplished poet, award-winning screenwriter and actor turned recording artist; Saul Williams continues to push the boundaries artistically with his latest album, Encrypted & Vulnerable. His first album classified as spoken word is far from what one might assume spoken word music might sound like. Some of the most dynamic soundscapes and sonic themes of Williams’ career can be found on this album. While the choice to categorize the collection as spoken word may not make much sense as this is undoubtedly not a spoken word album, it shows a purposeful decision to not label the album as rap or hip-hop like his previous albums. It is clear that Williams intends for this album to be a separation from the perceived artistic barriers that placing a record in a mainstream genre like rap might instill. On Encrypted & Vulnerable, Williams attempts to reach new heights creatively and sonically.
Encrypted & Vulnerable uses a diverse array of beats and sounds that all feel intentional and synergistic. On the song “I Own the Night,” Williams combines industrial, dark guitar and bass with wailing, heavily reverbed vocals. The song transitions to a more manic beat, filled with distorted hi-hat, drum and vocal samples. Here, Williams reads poetry as the beat collapses into spontaneous drum patterns, white noise and distorted guitar riffs.
On the next song, “Experiment,” Williams uses thumping 808s and a fluttering hi-hat pattern to frame his dark poetry. He takes the listener on a somewhat perplexing journey through seemingly scattered thoughts and ideas. The continuous theme is one of darkness and contorted political unrest. “Death to the hate-triarchy,” and “Like democracy and unbridled capitalism/ outcome is oppression and war” are standout lines.
Williams continues to showcase his dynamism and unbridled creative mind on his newest album. The poet also paints a picture of a society in distress with his words but does so elegantly. Entirely written and produced by Williams, Encrypted & Vulnerable is an impressive showcasing of experimental ideas and soundscapes that leave the listener with a lot to think about.