Kae Tempest’s Music Takes The Boundaries. A New LP Breaks Down More.


LONDON — Kae Tempest told the crowd at an intimate concert earlier this month, “I’ll just pop in and see you on the other side.”

For the next 30 minutes, Tempest, using non-dual and pronouns, performed their new album “The Line Is a Curve” a cappella. Standing alone on stage at Rough Trade East, Tempest closed his eyes and swayed like a trance to the rhythm of the words, occasionally wiping sweat from his cropped hair. The 300 spectators were silent and still, as if they were sharing the same dream.

When Tempest said in a recent interview at a cafe near their home in Catford, southeast London, “I want to manage this power in the room,” they said. “I want us to connect and see if we can connect.”

This impulse has guided Tempest ever since they started rapping under the name Excentral the Tempest as a teenager. Tempest, now 36 years old, has been instrumental in London’s poetry and spoken word scenes and has produced poetry, plays, fiction and non-fiction books and albums with lyrics over various atmospheric backgroundstwo of them were nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Released earlier this month, “The Line Is a Curve” is Tempest’s fourth album and perhaps their most personal call to connect ever. Tempest’s previous records and poems offered portraits of the inner lives of contemporary south London characters and ancient Greek gods. “The Line Is a Curve” is definitely first person singular: “I love you when I see you” In “Salt Shore,” Tempest sings on pessimistic synths; another track has a voice memo that Tempest recorded for a friend, “There can be no healing until everything is broken, break me.” The chorus of the first piece is “to be known and loved”.

The album cover is the first in eight years to feature a picture of Tempest. Working as a producer on “The Line Is a Curve” and all of Tempest’s solo albums, Dan Carey said that the new album was “a little more affectionate, a little more accepted” compared to his previous albums. I think Kae had some realizations about themselves that brought her even closer.”

Recently, the artist has started to share more than himself. Storm in August 2020 output as nonbinary and they changed their first name. Sitting in the cafe in south London, Tempest’s eyes lit up as he spoke of this new process of self-acceptance. “I feel relief,” they said. “Trans people are beautiful, so why am I afraid of that person in me? We are blessed people.” Since coming out, they’ve added, “Maybe I can connect with myself more.” “But I’ve been on the road to connecting all my life.”

One of Tempest’s plays, Ian Rickson, who directed the adaptation of Sophocles’ Philoctetes called “Paradise” at London’s National Theater last year, described it as a “shamanic” element of Tempest’s work. When Tempest wins the prestigious award Ted Hughes Award For poetry at the age of 26, for a piece of live performance poetry called “Brand New Ancients”, there was still a rift between what was perceived as “literary” and what was perceived as verbal/performance and somehow “non-literary”. ‘” said she, Maura Dooley, one of that year’s judges, in an email. Bridget Minamore, a poet and friend of Tempest, said that Tempest was instrumental in closing this gap.

Since then, Tempest has had many imitators on the oral scene. “They almost have a mythology around them,” Minamore said, attributing this to Tempest’s combination of high energy and raw vulnerability in the scene. “Sometimes you watch Kae and it’s like you’re going to cut yourself in half,” he said.

Capturing this lively energy in one recording was central to Tempest and Carey’s goals for “The Line Is a Curve.” Tempest likes to record an entire album in one go, “so while you’re reading it, I’m passing.”

But for this album, they did something more raw and bold, recording each vocal piece live in a theater three times to different audiences. The first involved three teenagers; the second is Minamore, who is 30 years old; and the last included a person who was 78 years old.

In live performances like this, “Your physiology is reacting to someone else, real communication has things the voice does,” said Tempest. “It takes it out of the liking zone, here are some words I wrote, words become bridges.”

“I smiled a lot listening to it,” Minamore said during the performance, noting the lightness of the recording and the feeling of “letting go”. In the end, the ones recorded before Minamore were the ones Tempest used for nearly the entire album. The LP features additional vocals from Lianne La Havas and Fontaines DC’s Grian Chatten and is produced by Rick Rubin.

The beauty and abundance of human interaction has always been an inspiration for Tempest, especially in southeast London, where they have lived more or less their entire lives. In the cafe, his gaze slid out the window and followed the movements of the passers-by. “Most of the things that really come to me in the creative process are observations, people,” Tempest said, pointing to the street. “Even now, it’s good for me to watch how people do it.”

Carey remembered standing in an airport taxi queue with Tempest. In front of them, some men were trying to turn a large device into a taxi, causing a delay. Carey was offended, but “Kae turned to me and said, ‘I love people, I watch these people try to do this thing,’” she said with a laugh. “It’s moments like these when Kae can come out of a situation most people can’t see with something nice.”

Daily life isn’t the only thing that fuels Tempest’s art. In their 2020 non-fiction book “On Connection”, they wrote about Jung’s spirit of the times, the spirit of the times, and the place in the soul where creativity arises. Talking about these ideas in the cafe, Tempest’s blue eyes were big and serious behind the thick glasses of his glasses. “I feel like I’m very much present deep down,” Tempest said. “Sometimes I really need to pull back.”

Minamore does this by talking about “random rappers on the UK chart and reality TV”; Tempest is a huge “MasterChef” fan. “Sometimes my mind is shooting all the cylinders, thinking about a million things, trying to write characters, plot, narrative, rhyme,” they said, “but sometimes I just don’t want to sit at the bar and talk about something interesting. just laugh.”

Tempest, who will be embarking on a European tour next month, described the feeling of a good concert as “going into space”. “It’s really physical, it feels like we’re connected to this moment and to each other,” they said, “as if we’re all breathing the same rhythm while it’s happening.”

Tempest is on the rise at Rough Trade East. “It felt very personal, like I was talking to everyone individually,” said Rob Lee, a 28-year-old fan, after the show. “Most of it I burst into tears.”


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