Kate Tempest is becoming iconic in numerous artistic worlds, including hip-hop, spoken word and literature, with a Mercury Music Prize nomination for debut Everybody Down, and a Ted Hughes Prize for poetry already firmly under her belt.
Let Them Eat Chaos, Tempest’s second solo album is her most damning and apocalyptic work to date. It's raw and gritty, acting as a platform for an epic poem spanning the minds and inner turmoil of seven characters, all awake on a London street at 4.18 am.
Tempest embodies her characters one by one, including widowed Alicia, ketamine-taking Gemma, and Esther, who works night shifts as a carer. We are offered a prolonged discussion of the album’s opening declaration around the meaning of human life: 'Is this what it’s come to?... What am I to make of all this?'
Musically it's rhythmic and electronic, consisting mostly of dark beats, which at times are often reminiscent of The Streets’ Original Pirate Material. It contrasts uptempo moments, with trudging, harsh and often unmelodic tracks. Europe Is Lost is spookily accurate; seemingly a prediction of Brexit, while Tunnel Vision, the record’s final track, is Tempest at her most desperate and powerful. Society is deconstructed and humanity picked apart as our current war-torn and consumerist world is thrust into the listener’s conscience.
This is realism at its finest. A reflection of now, which is – on the whole – unpleasant. In some ways, this is Tempest at her most crude, and at times the directness feels lacking in aesthetic appeal. The album is something you’re unlikely to play in the background or listen to with others. It feels designed for the individual: headphones, city streets and night time. At those times, the beats work perfectly as soundtrack to 2016’s fears and division. The abrasiveness can make listening hard at times, forcing us to face up to the elements of unpleasantness, injustice and violence of the world we live in.
Undoubtedly a contender for one of the most important pieces of music released this year, Let Them Eat Chaos dazzles with its linguistically-created, vivid imagery, and ability to evoke overwhelming atmosphere through its sound. The job of the poet is to speak for us, about things we can’t comprehend, in ways we could never imagine. By crossing genres and mediums, Tempest’s work is innovative and original. The story journeys from abstract speculation, to an apocalyptic assessment of humanity, and concludes with a rallying call to revolution.
Listen to: Lionmouth Door Knocker, Europe Is Lost, Tunnel Vision