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Kae Tempest - The Line Is a Curve Music Album Reviews

Kae Tempest - The Line Is a Curve Music Album Reviews
The London-based literary polymath’s fourth album fuses spoken-word poetry with skeletal production, painting a picture of contemporary UK culture in imagistic, intricately wrought verse.

Since making their live debut doing spoken word at 16, London-based Kae Tempest has made their mark across multiple disciplines: poetry, theater, fiction, and rapping. In 2012, they won the Ted Hughes Award for innovation in poetry. Two years later, they were selected as one of the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets. Two of their albums have been nominated for the Mercury Prize.

The tension between the self and the collective is central to their work; so is narrative’s role in bridging those two realms. Tempest has a predilection for myth (in 2013, they released Brand New Ancients, a contemporary retelling of the tale of Tiresias), and their writing often argues for the importance of storytelling itself. On their fourth album, The Line Is a Curve, they turn their attention to more contemporary stories. The album attempts to capture what it feels like to be alive today in contemporary Britain, drawing on familiar signifiers and clichés: online lives, multiple jobs, youthful years drowned in pubs. But as Tempest examines the stop-and-go motions of being, it also feels like they are asking what it feels like to be alive, period.

The Line Is a Curve is a sentimental, prophetic, mimetic, and worldbuilding work that blends moody electronica with elements of neo-soul and grimey hip-hop. It chronicles the afflictions of everyday life and the pressure to overcome them—from the violent desire to dissolve into limerence (“Don’t You Ever”) to breaking patterns of generational trauma (“Smoking”)—and ultimately counsels that we make peace with our daily adversities. With “more pressure” comes “more relief,” they intone on “More Pressure.” Beginning and ending with the same melody, the album’s cyclical structure mirrors the daily obligation to overcome our suffering and endure.

The album begins on a menacing and claustrophobic note with “Priority Boredom,” as co-writer and co-producer Dan Carey braids an apocalyptic melody into the center of the mix while Tempest tangles their vocals right into it. As the album progresses, Carey’s instrumentation becomes wider and lighter, and Tempest’s lyrics become more optimistic—“More grounded/More rooted/Less convoluted,” they rap on “More Pressure” over Carey’s euphoric, oscillating synth. In these more positive moments, Tempest can come across as mawkish; their style has always felt aligned with the heightened emotion of the American slam poetry scene, and This Line Is a Curve brims with chicken-soup-for-the-teenage-soul lyrics. Yet the album’s strength of heart is undeniable. “There are things I have to say about the fullness and the blaze/Of this beautiful life,” they rap on “Grace,” offering the album’s final words. It’s a beautiful and well-earned release after several tracks’ worth of despondency.

This is Tempest’s show, but musicians who have been playing with them since they first began gigging provide little smatterings of drums, guitar, tuba, cornet, and french horn. Further contributions come from Fontaines D.C.’s Grian Chatten (whose verse on “I Saw Light” feels conservative and glib compared to Tempest’s incisive and intimate imagery) and former BROCKHAMPTON member Kevin Abstract, who was introduced to Tempest through Rick Rubin, the album’s executive producer. Tempest and Carey have spent the last several years learning from the studio guru, using their time at Shangri-La trying to reconstruct the relationship between Tempest’s intricately polysyllabic verses with Carey’s post-dubstep productions. On 2019’s The Book of Traps and Lessons, their first Rubin-produced project, Carey reined in his sound, leaving more space for Tempest’s words. Carey and Tempest repeat this formula on The Line Is a Curve: As Carey’s synths brood, Tempest explores a whole poetry anthology’s worth of meters. Their dramatic delivery functions like a musical monologue, and their lyrics, which are stuffed with glottal stops and plosive consonants, function like a layer of percussion against Carey’s largely beatless electronic meanderings.

Throughout, Tempest balances character study, vignettes, monologues, and prosaic details that function metonymically—“Discarded masks, empty tubes/The colds, the flus,” they rap on “Salt Coast”—with each detail reconstructing the universe we live in. Tempest’s visceral yet temperate delivery is comparable to Little Simz’s calm conviction. Like Simz, too, Tempest is almost Biblical in their mode of address. Tempest’s linguistic instinct, however, is nearly peerless. The tight iambic trimeter of “Nothing to Prove”—ten lines of six slick syllables—sounds like bullets. Elsewhere, on “Priority Boredom,” where each verse is dedicated to its own vowel sound, the monotony of individualism is cleverly represented with congested “or” sounds: “Priority boredom/Gorging/Four courses/Forced absorption,” they spit, the words like slushy fruit in their mouth.

The Line Is a Curve functions as a therapeutic exercise in resilience and repetition. Starting from a place of isolation and dejection, Tempest ends with community-facing lightness and love. “But if you do not bring forth what is within you/What you do not bring forth will destroy you,” they prophesy—an epiphany that doesn’t last long, before the opening melody from “Priority Boredom” returns, and Tempest starts the journey over again.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Kae Tempest - The Line Is a Curve Music Album Reviews Kae Tempest - The Line Is a Curve Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 Rating: 5

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