Mister Matt Rutherford shares his thoughts and feelings on hearing the new LP from Kae Tempest - The Line Is A Curve . Available on vinyl from the VVV shop either on limited edition transparent orange vinyl or black vinyl.
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Kae Tempest - The Line is a Curve - Vinyl Thoughts
I’m in the Liberties, Dublin.
Packed into an unruly, chatty, sweaty Vicar Street watching Kae Tempest. Accompanied on stage by a keyboardist behind a brutal wall of electronics, the poet is harvesting attention. The beat driven delivery is sometimes angry, regularly funny, often tender but always superb, and at peak. Vicar Street was rapt. I shuffled out wondering… Where does Tempest go next?
April 2022, after all that.
Live gigs are starting, but this time I’m rapt. A new album from Kae Tempest and I'm listening on vinyl.
Many column inches have been filled about author, poet and recording artist Tempest, and we’ve collectively worked through interesting times, but ‘The Line is a Curve’ brings us to a new place. The messages and force are still there, but in between there seems to be more intimacy, more tenderness and maybe more love, it is a stunning album.
The crisp beats and clinical electronics from producer Dan Carey are still there, and guests add light and shade to the vocals: a verse from Grian Chatten of Fontaines D.C. in ´I saw light’ or the soulful hook line of Leanne La Havas added to ‘No Prizes’. There is more variety in collaboration this time around, and more maturity in the sound.
The Line is a Curve opens with menacing, congested sounds with ‘Priority Boredom’ giving us a dark commentary on modern life: “Build up resilience, build up views, but you can’t build for long on a partial truth”. A terrific opening track, setting the tone.
Later, the lovely ‘No Prizes’, with its La Havas induced melody in the chorus and gentle piano line over a pulsing bass allows a much gentler Tempest delivery, “She’s got her hat pulled down, full camo suit, sitting on the bass amp, strapping a zoot”.
Salt Coast - Feelings Of Home
The stand-out track for me is the breathtaking ‘Salt Coast’, a reimagining of national pride, and one that induces feelings of home with every listen. It highlights beautiful connections between us all, a vision of Britain with its ‘old ghosts, scrap tin… and sleeve pulling nervousness’, and it’s a powerful image of what pride there is to be had in home, delivered in delicious, painful details. It makes me yearn for home, but it could be any island, under any flag, disenchanted, disenfranchised but with hope, “so beautiful, so chaotic, so grounded, home”.
Further on, ‘Smoking’ seems to be derived from a lyric composed and shared in a backstage phone message at a gig or a festival, and recalls memory of childhood combined with intimate memories of Tempest’s mother, the Carey production sits back and gently allows this story to unfold, until a more traditional verse from Confucius MC brings us home.
Another highlight track is the urgent ‘Move’, with a brooding synth baseline, and the Kae Tempest delivery acting as extra percussion. The lyric follows familiar territory from early albums, “Move, I’ll fight you till I win”, an amazing hookline delivered with more assertiveness than venom.
Throughout ‘The Line is a Curve’ Kae Tempest balances building character and scene in their lyrics, and the album follows a journey from dark, isolation towards a more uplifting prayer like ‘Grace’ to complete the cycle, taking us towards ‘this beautiful life’.
In isolation this would be an outstanding album from an articulate, multi-disciplined artiste, but laid out next to earlier work this feels even more impressive, a continued arc through tight observation, sharp delivery and excellent production. It should be gulped down as a whole, uninterrupted, and with attention paid to the delicate phrasing and powerful words.
The Line Is A Curve - Vinyl Presentation
Physically, the vinyl is high quality and with a good clean pressing. It comes with some stunning Wolfgang Tillman photography and a good old fashioned lyric sheet that allows you to read along and pick out the words in those tightly nested rhymes.
Kae Tempest, no storm in a teacup, is the real thing.