WICKED GOOD: When more folks on this side of the Atlantic hear UK rapper Kate Tempest and her bandmates — Sound of Rum is gonna explode. Make room Bahamadia, Speech Debelle and Jean Grae, there’s another girl on the block who spits mad too. Tempest (an apropos last name) whirls her vortex of lyrics with a tornado’s fierceness. Her supercellular mic skills require an enhanced Rap Fujita Scale. She hurls introspective verses with poetry-slam force. She ignites with words and reflections that explode like Molotov cocktails hitting concrete. Sound of Rum is no typical rap act.
What makes the band so unique is also the sound of her co-partners, guitarist/loop-pedalist Archie Marsh, and drummer Ferry Lawrenson. They make sophisticated grooves to compliment their fiery frontwoman. Sound of Rum injects an indie-infused musical sense with R&B melodies, chill retro-jazz, harmonized hooks, and even a Spanish-tinged guitar prelude on the song “Rumba” (off their 2009 EP “Balance”) — where Tempest presciently announces, “Only in darkness is a star born.”
The topical scope of her verses is sprawling: Tempest raps with lines about Shakespeare (oh, the irony), the powerless, drinking, latchkey kids, or the myths of Icarus and Prometheus. Yes, she’s written two songs named after mythic characters. There isn’t a popular American rapper today that writes the kind of verse heard in “Prometheus”, “The petals are fallin’ / My head’s numbed by the onslaught of autumn / Sometimes I think things, and then I wish I hadn’t thought ’em / But I know that’s hardly important / Since your fire melts my fabric / And I felt that magic at night / But I was led back to the light / With my feet tied, dragged hesitant / ‘Cuz I mistook reputation for relevance / And I mistook education for elegance / But now I see everything is sediment / Everything stopped …”
The song builds slowly, with eerily warped guitar noises like computerized seagulls squawking. But even more remarkably, Tempest sustains intensity throughout the entire track. Sound of Rum turn a minimalist beginning into an inflammatory Massive Attack (circa “Mezzanine”) industrial, deep bass number designed to crush. Frankly, there is nothing out there like “Prometheus”. It’s a stunning piece of music. (Must listen to 2:34 mark onward.) Tempest changes her vocal style multiple times during the track. At first it’s knife-sharp, high-treble lines that bleed with intimacy, before she alters her delivery into an incantation, and then singing. It’s like the prey morphing into the lion.
Sound of Rum recently signed to record label Sunday Best and plan on releasing a full length LP soon. — Words and art by David D. Robbins Jr. (Illustration uses Sasha Mihalova photo)
Sound of Rum “Prometheus”
VIDEO BELOW: Sound of Rum “Rumba”