Sounds: S.al // I Steel Of Radiance, I Feel So Action
·4 min read
Alexander Kollman – proclaimed keeper of the great big scroll, stoker of the furnace, aka Safari Al, aka S.al is a Kenosha, Wisconsin based rapper and strand of the poetic Ruby Yacht collective. His artistry as rapper and poet is rooted in a blend of lyrical imagination with alternative hip-hop beats; an overall unorthodox sound in regards to hip-hop in general, and perhaps a trope in part inspired by the close-knit friendship within the esteemed music-making guild.
Having kept himself fairly quiet since his 2017 release, “Little
Man, You’ve had a busy day”, S.al is now out with his latest project “I Steel
Of Radiance, I Feel So Action”; a split tape album rife with philosophical
musings, deep introspections, ergo serene imagery treating each track as
long-wheat fields with a wooden fence mediating between, throughout.
“I Steel Of Radiance, I Feel So Action” is essentially comprised of two albums; separated by the simple comma wedged between both clauses of its title on the verge of confounding. Primarily, “I Steel of Radiance” (tracks 1-5) sees production from Steel Tipped Dove, and the latter, “I Feel So Action” (tracks 6-10) is produced by Cold Lunch. Part of their separation comes from an idea of synonymy with cassette format. This touch no doubt ingrains itself on the fringe; a slight nod to the outskirts of any form of mainstream. S.al thrives on this philosophy of music making, showing no signs of conformity to bigger trends, instead taking his own time to hone his own art.
Using this split tape format, S.al has been able to create a deeply complex, multi-layered album that constantly metamorphosises throughout its short 20-minute time mark. The opening single piano notes of “Rocco” vibes with a certain sense of simplicity; a subtle difference in sound from the more grounded sounds of his former “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day”. The light, floating nature from Steel Tipped Dove’s production are a fluffy egg-white base for S.al’s mesmerising flows. Here, and throughout, S.al lays down a flurry of lines, sometimes so beautifully confounding, their apparent lack of sense becomes irrelevant thanks to his eloquent delivery. His scattering of aphorismic phrases throughout feels like planted seeds waiting in brains to be recalled during quiet musings post-listen.
It’s a separate goal: to think, to feel
Halfway through, the album sees a different production from Cold Lunch, overall taking a completely different sound from the serenity of its first half. The gritty jazz hooks of “TEXTBOOK ROMANCE” evoke a different sense of raw energy in this album, compared to the more subtle aspects found in the first half. This alteration of sonic sensibility allows S.al to thrive in a different environment: scenes of lofi evening light come to life, and S.al’s lines entice a certain sense of cynicism under this differentiated sound. Beat changes in tracks such as “FLOES” adorn verbal repetitions, and emphasize the poetics S.al sets down for us to readily consume. The ending notes solidified as “HOT LUNCH” take a gleeful turn, yet still deeply rooted in a rich, raw, lofi-scape. It slows down to a deeper pace, relaxing the ears to a warmed state, and sings like a final birdsong at the edge of a dimmed, yet remarkably serene world.
S.al’s music is marked by a deeply personal panorama of his ever curious nature. He is the seeker of truth as postmodern poet. There is often a feeling of getting lost in his head, and it becomes easy to also get caught up in it.
Too much theory, not enough real
Honestly, one of the key attributes of this album lies not
in the oeuvre that is set out before us here (at least for me) but proliferates
phenomenally like finding two kernels sleeping in an almond shell, if you could
excuse the Cixous referral. Perhaps what I mean is, certain words or phrases
sputtered from the silver lips of S.al evoke such an intense response, the
words stick to the listener in a mesmerising way as to repeatedly come back
every now and then as if they were each pockets of profound knowledge with the
capacity of deeper meanings in each proceeding ponder. Consider “Occam”, a nod
to 14th century William of Ockham’s namesake principle. Prolific
mantras in reference to its principle carry throughout this solemn track, which
I have found to spectrally appear in my mind’s eye from time to time, and it
feels like an enriching experience. Maybe not every line of S.al’s poetic
artistry will make sense for the listener, and maybe never will, yet it is this
aspect of his art that becomes the most alluring, especially as this only makes
up half of the experience.
Listening to this album feels akin to a sense of standing in an empty long-wheat field and finding an almond on the ground, unknowingly holding two kernels at its core, and within those kernels are hidden their own impossible almonds. If it is possible at all, this should no doubt be a fitting metaphor for “I Steel Of Radiance, I Feel So Action”.