Kae Tempest - The Line Is A Curve

 

With its growling synths, strong melodic figures, and resilient mood, The Line Is a Curve is yet another highlight for Kae Tempest. The London rapper's first two LPs garnered richly deserved acclaim and a pair of Mercury Prize nominations, while their third, 2019's atmospheric The Book of Traps and Lessons, saw them move toward a less rhythmic style that played more like one of their spoken word performances. Their first release since coming out as non-binary, The Line Is a Curve is less global than those earlier records and less brittle than its predecessor, instead dialing in on Tempest's inner conversations. Their reputation as a creative polymath -- Tempest is also a successful poet, playwright, and novelist -- has always been at the nexus of their public narrative, sometimes distracting from the fact that, when in top form, they can deliver tight rhymes with a captivating fervor and grit. This record, a marvel of openness and resolve, marks the return of Tempest the emcee and no song better represents their transformation than the dazzling "More Pressure." Against a shimmering synth backdrop and fluid beat Tempest slings sharp verses that detail the self's quest for release and wholeness. With its punchy assist from American rapper Kevin Abstract (Brockhampton), it's also one of many collaborations from an artist who traditionally doesn't feature other vocalists. Elsewhere, Ireland's Grian Chatten (Fontaines D.C.) offers his voice to the electro-minimalist "I Saw Light" and Britain's Lianne La Havas provides the melodic hook on the poignant "No Prizes." Tempest's longtime foil, producer Dan Carey, is also back, though he too is working on a different level. While there is some of the organic instrumentation (mainly pianos and guitars) from their previous release together, The Line Is a Curve is better defined by its electronic elements like the buzzing, dark synths of opener "Priority Boredom" and the majestic "Salt Coast," a quintessentially Tempest-ian paean to the virtues and flaws of their beloved British isle. More aesthetically modern and approachable than some of their other records, though no less potent, this is Kae Tempest at their best. [via AllMusic]

1 Priority Boredom
2 I Saw Light
3 Nothing to Prove
4 No Prizes
5 Salt Coast
6 Don't You Ever
7 These a the Days
8 Smoking
9 Water in the Rain
10 Move
11 More Pressure
12 Grace

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