Album review: "Volcanic Sunlight"
By - Chris Kompanek
Friday, Feb. 17, 2012
Saul Williams possesses the theatrical flair of an actor, the literary arsenal of a Beat poet and the soul of a trip-hop musician. These talents first came together when he co-wrote and starred in the 1998 movie "Slam," playing a small-time-drug-dealer-turned-slam-poet. With life imitating art, Williams has carved out a career exploring the intersection of poetry and music, alternating between publishing books and releasing LPs that explore themes of inequality and transformation.
This exploration of identity reached its peak when Williams adopted a glam alter ego for his 2007 album, "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust," channeling David Bowie. His latest album, "Volcanic Sunlight," peels back the layers of artifice, beautiful as they were. In the first few seconds of opening track "Look to the Sun," Williams declares, "The labels that I claimed as me / were no more than a skin / I wrapped around my consciousness / as if it had an end." The words roll off his tongue with precision and speed yet land on the ear with an inviting ease. "Girls on Saturn" riffs on Cyndi Lauper's pop anthem "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," and "Explain My Heart" coats philosophical ruminations in punchy riffs.
"Volcanic Sunlight" marks a musical catharsis for Williams. It may not have the complexity of his previous works, but some thoughts are best expressed simply.