Kate Tempest isn't the first to blur the lines between spoken word, performance poetry, and rap. However she does seem unique in her unwillingness to define what she does through any particular genre or title. She seems happy to occupy her own niche on ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, with her influences as diverse as they could possibly be, from WB Yeats to Wiley.
Her poetic voice on ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ is a product of the same disillusioned youth culture that acts like The Streets emerged from, albeit with a less humorous and more character-driven style. Her ability as a writer and performer is impressive, as she seamlessly shifts between performance poetry and rap with relative ease. The story of the album follows seven main characters and is complex without being indulgent. Tempest certainly isn't an artist who panders to her audience and yet the music is never treated as simply a backdrop for her lyrical performance.
Sonically the album is a melting pot of influences from the past two decades of London underground music. The tracks are a fusion of everything from drum and bass to atmospheric electronic rock a la The xx. Elements of grime can also be heard, particular on tracks like the synth-heavy 'Whoops', which doesn't sound dissimilar to ‘Boy In Da Corner’-era Dizzee Rascal.
Album centrepiece 'Europe Is Lost' illustrates both the strengths and short-comings of Tempest's approach. She delivers a compelling picture of late night over-indulgence, complete with observations on “Two for one drinks” and how “all we want is some excess”. Unfortunately when she delves into the political she has a tendency to become preachy and clichéd. Although the passion she delivers with is engaging, her social commentary is more appealing when it is less explicit. The pulsating 'Perfect Coffee' is a great example of her striking the right balance, as her comments on gentrification, “the squats we used to party in, are flats we can't afford”, are simultaneously humorous and tragic.
‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ is engaging and at only 48 minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome. Tempest seems to relish the challenge of delivering a concise but complex story over a compelling variety of instrumentals. Aside from a few overly earnest observations, ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ is one of the most unique and interesting projects of 2016.
Words: Will Rosebury
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