The Line Is A Curve

The Line Is A Curve

Coming off the back of 2019’s excellent The Book of Traps and Lessons and the critically acclaimed play Paradise at London’s National Theatre in 2021, MC and poet Kae Tempest’s fourth album is their most ambitious, personal, and open to date. Made with longtime collaborator and producer Dan Carey, the record moves in a series of bold musical and thematic suites that take in collaborators including Lianne La Havas, South London rapper Confucius MC, Fontaines D.C.’s Grian Chatten, and BROCKHAMPTON’s Kevin Abstract. The Line Is a Curve is about letting go of the anxieties and fears that hold you back and embracing life’s cyclical nature. “This record is meant to symbolize a journey through different pressures,” says Tempest, “whether it’s the pressures of a relationship, or trying to survive and build the name for yourself, or just trying to get through the day. It will mean something different to everybody, but that’s the beauty of language.” Here, they talk us through The Line Is a Curve, track by track. “Priority Boredom” “It’s an evocation of a feeling that I imagine we all are familiar with, which is the relentless pressure of existence and the forces competing for our attention. It’s meant to plunge you directly into the experience of the dull numbness and the claustrophobia of life in the present moment. What it’s saying is this race to death that we call progress or happiness or the pursuit of normal activity, happy families, or whatever the value system is that we’ve swallowed up and are trying to recreate is actually extremely taxing for the individual and also for the community. It’s quite sarcastic in its own way. It’s meant to be knowing rather than an actual description of our lives.” “I Saw Light” (feat. Grian Chatten) “I’ve wanted to work with Grian ever since I met him. My desire was to have Grian’s voice contributing a poem because I feel him in that way, as a poet. When you put somebody else’s words alongside yours, you create this friction between the verses that creates new meaning. It gives the words a new energy, a new dimension. Grian putting his words down transformed and affected the verse that I had already written. It’s beautiful.” “Nothing to Prove” “It’s a statement song. It’s powerful in its musicality. I love the beat. The first and the second verses are absolutely phonetically matched. There is communication going on between the transformations in the lyric as it begins in one way, and then as it transforms in the other way, so you have this kind of call-and-response between two verses. For me as a writer, a rhymer, and a lyricist, to be doing that on a record is an embodiment of having nothing to prove. It’s like, ‘Here, look what this song is doing.’ It’s like this chorus, musicality, lyricism, flow that are all saying the same thing. There’s nothing to prove—it’s all to play for.” “No Prizes” (feat. Lianne La Havas) “It’s close-up portraits of three characters and Lianne’s voice is the overarching theme or the undercurrent of what is common with all of them. The same thing that is occurring for them all, and all of us, in this world where we’ve set the album—where the dominant mythology says, ‘I’ve just got to keep climbing, and I don’t know why.’ I’ve known Lianne for a long time, and I love her voice passionately. There’s mutual respect and friendship there, and it just felt like the right time to try and bring some of that energy through into the record.” “Salt Coast” “It’s a love letter to Britain. Within my imagination, this island was embodied as this kid, this young girl. I suppose I was thinking about my childhood. I was thinking about the people I knew and loved as a kid, the people that made the most profound impact on me, and also the particular Britishness of that time. It’s acknowledging all of the complexities of loving home. It’s a complex place to love but, for me, it’s no less beautiful than any other. It’s home. I’ve gone deeply into why this soil feels the way it feels to me. I really want it to be the unofficial England World Cup anthem. Imagine that on the terraces.” “Don’t You Ever” “Kwake Bass plays the drums. We’ve been friends since childhood. He’s one of the greatest drummers of our generation, I think. The guitar part is by this guy Luke [Eastop]. We were all in a band together when we were about 19 years old, and the music on this, not the lyrics, was something that we used to play together when we were doing all of these hippie festivals. I just thought to myself on this record, ‘I want to get everybody together again. I want us to play together, and I want to do a kind of grown-up version of that song.’ Because it’s a fucking brilliant song.” “These Are the Days” “This is one that me and Dan wrote together in this weird studio lockdown situation. It’s this big, epic production, but we were writing it on a very minimized kit. We knew we wanted to do it live, so when the band came in to do ‘Don’t You Ever,’ we also did ‘These Are the Days’ with all of the horns and the same crew playing the bass and the drums. That had a huge impact on it. It’s us saying, ‘Yeah, these are the days, this is the time, let’s fucking play this song!’” “Smoking” (feat. Confucius MC) “When I started rapping—and I’m talking about 15, 16 years old—Confucius was instrumental in guiding me. His lyricism was profound for me. We were in a crew together, and he was an important person in my creative life. If it wasn’t for those people, I would not be here, so I wanted to bring my community into my creativity. It sounds the way it does because I recorded it backstage at a festival and sent it to Dan as a voice note, which I often do.” “Water in the Rain” (feat. Assia) “It’s kind of setting myself free from some stuff that I’ve been suffering from with poor mental health. I think sometimes singing about it, just describing it and going into the experience of it, can take some of the fear out of what you experience when you’re experiencing it in isolation. It’s a profound moment on the album for me.” “Move” “I think of the album as a series of suites. You start with ‘Smoking’ and all of the themes that come up in that and then you move into ‘Water in the Rain,’ which is this unleashing of deep emotion, which then opens up the space for us to get to ‘Move.’ ‘Move’ is a response to what’s come before. I’ve connected with the tenderness, so now I can really dig deep and find my strength. This is the time to get up off the floor and stand up for yourself. The idea of ‘Move’ is that you earn that strength by being that vulnerable. It’s a fight song. I might be losing right now, but I’m not going to give up.” “More Pressure” (feat. Kevin Abstract) “The Line Is a Curve builds its momentum. It’s like a wave: You build up all of this galvanizing spirit of fight, and that’s what enables you to reframe the narrative of the pressures that you’re under. Now you can say, ‘Right, I get it. I’m under all this pressure, but I’m going to use all this pressure, and I’m going to use this energy to make change and cultivate greater acceptance.’ It’s all part of this swell that begins at the start of the record. Rick Rubin suggested that I give Kevin a shout. It’s not quite as close to home as the other collaborations, which are very much based in South London, but it opens the record up a bit more and, hopefully, allows more people in.” “Grace” “It’s like a prayer. It’s this repeated refrain that comes back to me. When I’m in need, I go back to those words: ‘Let me be loved. Let me be loving.’ I would say those words to myself before going out onstage to do a performance of The Book of Traps and Lessons. It’s become something to keep me grounded. It feels really fitting that this song came out of the sessions making this album, but then it’s something that had its place in other works that I’ve done. Dan is playing the synth line to ‘Priority Boredom’ on the guitar, so it leads you back around in a circle. It’s such a gentle, tender way of finishing the album.”

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