One of the UK’s most vital voices
Adam England
12:35 5th April 2022

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Over the past decade, Kae Tempest has been cementing themselves as one of the UK’s most vital voices. They mix the personal, the political, and the everyday in such a way that other artists seldom manage, and The Line is a Curve is a continuation of that trend. 

Tempest is the sort of talent who could easily give us 45 minutes of just them and have it be great, but as we’ve seen previously with the likes of ‘Guts’, featuring Loyle Carner, they shine when working with some of the brightest names in music. 

The electronic minimalism of ‘I Saw Light’, with Fontaines D.C.’s Grian Chatten, isn’t quite what we’re used to from the post-punk frontman, but he’s the perfect complement to Tempest’s voice on a track that really works. 

Likewise, Lianne La Havas’ soulful tones work perfectly on the mellow ‘No Prizes’, which mixes piano and hip hop beats, and Tempest gets old friend Confucius MC involved on ‘Smoking’, which feels like one of the more introspective tracks on the album. Full of background chatter, the recurring lyric “When I smoke I remember/My mother smoking” uttered by both participants is memorable, and Tempest shows off their spoken word prowess to great effect.

Tempest once again works with producer and longtime collaborator Dan Carey, the man behind Speedy Wunderground and many of the hottest artists about, Fontaines included, and his talent is evident—as is the close working relationship of the pair. The album flows brilliantly and makes for a well-rounded listen.

As a record, The Line is a Curve is more stripped-back and makes use of heavier R&B and soul influences than most of Tempest’s previous work. It conjures up thoughts of Tom Misch, Sampha, even Frank Ocean in places, and you could argue that it’s less intense than a Let Them Eat Chaos or an Everybody Down, but Tempest’s vehement vocals would beg to differ on an album they describe as being about “letting go. Of shame, anxiety, isolation and falling instead into surrender.”

While the collaborations here are definitely among the highlights, sometimes it’s still best when Tempest is right at the forefront, like on ‘Salt Coast’, where trance-like beats that feel as if they get increasingly intense are a constant next to Tempest’s biting social commentary. In their own words, it’s a “love song to this complex, devastating, deeply beautiful island”, and at almost six minutes long it’s one that sticks in the mind long after the album moves on. 

The synths on ‘Move’ feel as if they could veer off into CHVRCHES-esque electropop with a moment’s notice, before we get into ‘More Pressure’, an almost uncharacteristically poppy track that features founding member of BROCKHAMPTON Kevin Abstract. The juxtaposition between ‘More Pressure’ and album closer ‘Grace’, which comes after, is stark, as the latter is more in line with the rest of the tracks on The Line is a Curve.

Tempest is no stranger to critical acclaim and getting plaudits thrown their way, and that’s something that’ll surely continue. And on this basis, it’s very well deserved. 

The Line is a Curve arrives 8 April via Fiction Records.

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