Listeners expecting the stylish soul-funk of Sault’s 2020 albums Untitled (Rise) and Untitled (Black Is) might be momentarily thrown by the cosmic choral-and-orchestral suite of Air, but thematically, it fits: Like all their music, Air is, at heart, a study of Black artistic traditions, in this case early-’70s Alice Coltrane (“Solar”), the soulful ambience of Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants (“Heart”), even a little of the modern-classical side of artists like Anthony Braxton. And as sci-fi as the sound can seem, the core feeling is one of uplifting Earth—a message confirmed as equally by the skyward arc of the strings as by the prayer-like recitation on “Time Is Precious.” Or, as producer Inflo tells Apple Music, not fantasy, but “art in reality”—air.

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