https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/sault-nine/The nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down” is secretly about the spirits of the dead. The centuries-old children’s tune doubles as a macabre tale of children being walled inside the London Bridge, or buried under its foundation, to ensure that the structure never crumbles. At least that’s the theory advanced by Alice Bertha Gomme, a noted British folklorist and scholar of children’s games. Like the fables of the Brothers Grimm, whose bloody tales were sanitized for bedtime retelling, many nursery rhymes have equally disturbing origins. On NINE, the elusive British group SAULT channel childhood rhymes—not just their repetitive, earwormy melodies but also their ominous undertones—into songs with a deceptively simple air that are laden with grief.NINE is SAULT’s third album in just a little over a year, and it builds on the penchant for mystery that they established with their first two albums, 5 and 7, both released in 2019 under a cloak of anonymity. The album will be available—whether as a stream, download, or CD/LP—for just 99 days. Where their first albums were rooted in neo-soul and funk, 2020’s Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise) borrowed liberally from Afrobeat and the blues. With NINE, they add new layers—of mystery but also flippant humor—to their sound.We laugh when things are funny but recently, particularly over the past year and a half, I began buckling over when things were neither humorous nor joyous. Laughter made more sense than sadness. It required more physical exertion, and helped me move when I wanted to hide in a crawl space. It’s that energy of laughing because everything is terrible that beats through the brief opener, “Haha,” an a cappella chant that resembles a playground rhyme set to syncopated handclaps. “How about/Ha ha ha ha/How about/Ha ha ha ha,” runs the refrain, leaving little inkling of its origin story. Are we laughing at a joke or a person? And “how about” what exactly? That man, that dog, them Yankees? The meaning is as cryptic as the band, but they do offer a hint: “How about the love.” Looking around the globe today, that four-letter word is as urgent as it is furtive, and while SAULT are private, the grief they sing of has been projected onto the world stage, stoking a sadness that could make you want to disappear. It’s the type of misery that elicits a desperate ha ha ha ha. How about the love, right?