Anyone who knows me, follows me on social media, or listens to me blathering away over on Picky Bastards, will know how I feel about Kae Tempest. They are possibly my favourite artist on the planet. And although I use the word ‘artist’ to describe musicians on a regular basis, with Tempest the word means so much more. They’re a poet, a writer, a playwright, and now, on the evidence of On Connection, a philosopher. Kae has always had a lot to say; be it on politics, human rights, history, love, the state of the nation, or anything else they choose to put their name too. I could go on. But this is a review of On Connection rather than another opportunity to listen to me praise one of my favourite people, so I’ll just say that if you want to hear about what their music has meant to me you can check out this article that I wrote last year.
My first feeling when On Connection came through my letterbox, though, was disappointment. Why? I had been ready to lose myself for days in a new set of Tempest tales and here was this tiny slip of a book, just 120-odd pages and really not that much bigger than my phone. This was a few hours reading at most. I reset my expectations and made a cup of tea, stuck the lamp on and closed the door on the rest of the world.
Little more than two and a half fully immersed hours later I left the bedroom and went downstairs, suddenly feeling the urge to do some creative writing for the first time in a couple of months. Because while Kae called this book On Connection it is, in reality, as much about the importance of creativity as it is about anything else. In some of the parts that connected most deeply with me, it talks of the importance of giving yourself permission to be creative no matter what the quality of the output. Of allowing yourself to play. Of putting distance between the view that everything you do must be to advance your craft, rather than just acknowledging that being creative is a thing that brings you joy.
What makes this little book so involving, though, is how Kae links the importance of creativity to the importance of connection. And how they talk about how both these things have helped them through their hardest times. Through creativity, Kae has found some of the most important connections of their life – one that stands out in this book is a chance meeting with a homeless poet which left Kae with a total different view of their work and processes. It is worth reading this book just to consider the impact such chance encounters are able to create.
Any Cop?: For such a short work of literature, this really does pack a punch. It manages to be heartbreaking, enthralling, inspiring, and contemplative all at the same time. In many ways it actually reminds me of Kae’s latest LP, The Book of Traps and Lessons. Like that piece of music it is extremely honest, punctured with an admittance of how difficult Kae finds the troubled times we are living in. But at its heart is a pounding optimism and a real hope that we can make our way through the mire by clinging close to each other and finding ways to escape the daily grind that is forced upon us at every turn. Once again, Tempest has all the right words.