On February 4 we saw the release of the latest Kae Tempest single, ‘Salt Coasts’, which in their own words is a “love song to this complex, devastating [and] deeply beautiful island.” It is a serenade for an age rife with chasmic divisions that challenges and then proceeds to provide a redefinition of what it is to be proud of being British.
It’s no secret that national pride is a contentious subject. One merely has to mention it and rooms divide. Particularly in Britain. To proclaim pride in Britain immediately evokes images of Union Jacks, grimey boozers, and the EDL, giving rise to concerns of nationalism, shady false patriotism, and a general unease of unclear and unpleasant intentions. As a nation we’re not short of shame, nor should we be, for our history is littered with disdainful actions, offensive policies, insidious ploys, political scandals, and other atrocities. So how can one be proud to be British? Where, if anywhere at all, can pride be found in this country we call home? And what can account for the dialectical desire to be proud of our home whilst acknowledging its history tainted with horrors?
‘Salt Coasts’ encapsulates these queries exceptionally. Though listening to this masterpiece of modern poetry won’t answer these difficult questions for you, that, I have no doubt, was not its intended purpose. Rather, Tempest provides a beautiful connection between people, understanding that our society is experienced differently, and provides different issues for us all, but that nonetheless a sense of community can be found for all of us living between these salt coasts.
This single is the second release in preparation for Tempest’s fourth studio album, following More Pressure, featuring Brockhampton‘s Kevin Abstract, released at the start of the year. From the releases so far, two things are apparent. First, on a sonic front, the production underpinning the upcoming album will be more danceable than its predecessors. The electronic influence feels fresh – a significant departure from the hard-hitting Let Them Eat Chaos, the brooding beats of The Book of Traps And Lessons and the conceptual works of Everybody Down.
Don’t let this fool you though, more danceable doesn’t mean lighter. The lyricism, powerful as ever, continues many of the themes found throughout Tempest’s earlier works: the trials and tribulations commonplace in life around us; the despairing sense of disconnect from the institutions that govern us; and the sense of togetherness and unity that serve as the silver linings to these gloomy clouds. In many ways, this is what I love most about this record, and Tempest in general. It’s heavy, yet with levity. Even in the darkest hour, hope persists. And despite rampant divisions a sense of alienation unifies us all the same.
I’ve had the pleasure of following Kae’s work closely for the last eight years. Their capacity to keep every project feeling distinctly new, whilst simultaneously preserving every ounce of the poignant message and elegant wordsmithing we’ve come to love and expect never ceases to amaze me. I can’t wait for the new album, and if nothing else will, Kae Tempest makes me proud to be British.