Kate Tempest: The Book of Traps and Lessons (American/Republic) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Kae Tempest

The Book of Traps and Lessons


Aug 20, 2019 Kae Tempest Bookmark and Share

South London’s Kate Tempest has been something of a revelation over this decade. The success of this spoken-word poet has been unparalleled in the UK, to the extent that she even received a fair amount of backlash from some corners of the Internet. Tempest’s earnestness isn’t for everyone, but she has been a fierce and vital political voice over her first two records Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos.

On album number three, Tempest decamped to the U.S. to work with producer Rick Rubin (as well as producer Dan Carey) and even played a hand in inspiring Jay-Z’s terrific comeback album 4:44. Rubin has brought out the best out of Tempest’s work, playing a subtle, understated hand that brilliantly complements the performance. During the album’s mid-point of “I Trap You” melting away into “All Humans Too Late,” the music disappears completely, and Tempest’s voice speaking out to a vacuum has a surprisingly deadly effect, but such is the flow Rubin constructs with her in the album’s first half.

It is the record’s final third that displays what a great team Tempest and Rubin make. Tempest has always painted a complex, challenging landscapes, but rarely has she sounded so optimistic in the chaos. The album possesses a light-concept about how love will prevail through the maddening times we are all currently experiencing and in “Firesmoke” and album finale “People’s Faces” Tempest expresses this best. The tracks sit either side of the only moment where Rubin’s background painting threatens to overspill on Tempest’s presentation (“Holy Elixir”), but Tempest regains control by singing the piano-line’s melody to end the album on a note that is equally sombre and uplifting. It is a genuine surprise that this is Tempest’s first record not to be Mercury Prize-nominated, given it could well go down as her best, but regardless, this is a highly satisfactory work. (www.katetempest.co.uk)

Author rating: 8/10

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Johny Kim
August 20th 2019

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