Poet and musician Kate Tempest's new album tells the story of seven strangers, living on the same street, all awake at the same moment: 4:18am. Through the course of the songs, we find out who these seven are and what's keeping them from sleeping.
She explains that she "was drawn to this particular time because it's not the night before and it's not the day to come - it's a moment that doesn't belong to your employer, your lover, your family, it's entirely your own. And so the characters can be vulnerable and open with themselves about how they're doing. They are not performing for anyone, they are stuck with themselves and what keeps them awake. Also, there is a cyclical pattern to the way a person tends to think when they cant sleep that lends itself well to song writing; it gives a naturalness to the repetition of sounds, words and rhymes."
The album begins in the vacuum of space and gradually zooms in, moving across time rather than through it (we remain at 4:18 all the way through the record) until a huge storm breaks over the street and brings the seven characters out of their rooms to stand in it together. We are given acutely observed details of each characters surroundings (the picture of swallows in flight on Esther's kitchen wall, or the nicotine-gold wallpaper in Jemma's hallway) before we go inside their heads and hear songs from their perspectives.
'Let Them Eat Chaos' is a tightly woven narrative; Dan Carey's production (Bat for Lashes, Sia, Chairlift, Guilty Simpson) is excellently crafted to support and augment the lyrics. This album feels more direct than 2014's 'Everybody Down', with a sharper sense of purpose to the lyrics. 'Chaos...' reflects and explores how it feels to live in London in 2016. The beats are moody and deep, Carey's haunting synths and nocturnal London rhythms draw the tension out and drive the album towards its climactic closing.
"We wrote everything together in the studio, Dan plays beats that spur me on to write and rewrite verses and then my verses spur him on to write and rewrite beats. We generated a load of material in concentrated bursts of creativity, just writing loads and loads, so many different versions of songs and tracks, trying to get to the root of the idea. We would work incessantly for a week or two weeks, and then we'd take a break, out of necessity, because I'd have to tour or write and he'd have to record albums with other artists. But in the space you take away from an idea, that's when it's doing its hardest work in your brain. You carry it around whether you know it or not and everything you experience feeds into it. While I was touring 'Everybody Down' and writing the 'Bricks that Built the Houses', and I was turning 'Chaos' around and around in my head. Eventually I realized that I wanted to get all of the drafts and versions of lyrics out of my notebooks and work them into a manuscript, and then apply the same principles of editing that I'd applied to my poetry collection 'Hold Your Own' - these were principles I had learnt from working with my poetry editor Don Paterson. This was when it really started taking shape and I realized it was a long poem as well as an album."
Since 2014's 'Everybody Down' Kate has written and published the poetry collection 'Hold Your Own' and the novel 'The Bricks that Built the Houses' and is on a ceaseless mission to improve her writing and sculpt her style, using each finished project as a reason to try harder to have clearer ideas and to construct tighter narratives. Her obsession is paying off: The stories she tells in 'Chaos' are intimate and heartfelt without being trite, she is uncompromising in her reflections of life in these times, yet ultimately empathic in her vision as she offers her hopeful conclusion.