When conducting a Google search for interviews with Yves Tumor, trying to get a handle on one who stays slippery with their personals, the bottom of the page spits out these terms highlighted after their name: gender, age, pronouns, birthday, lifetime. The word ‘honesty’ precedes it. Resulting in more descriptions than actual interviews.
Anybody who’s witnessed the Sean Bowie aka Yves Tumor carnival of information game over the past six years knows. They keep a middle finger pointed squarely at the press. Besides not wanting folk they don’t know all up in they DM’s, the experimental electronic artist knows mystery can be useful. But when you listen, and I do mean pay strict attention to, the music, the aesthetics being applied by this artist since 2015 read Little Richard, Sylvester, Iggy Pop, Suicide, Parliament-
Tumor keeps it moving like a coffee addict hurriedly flipping through various record sections at their local vinyl mecca, resulting in some dramatic ’70s rock, glam-noise clash, which bumps along with drum patterns and bass-lines that crack/knock like MPC creations. For all the treble Yves got running on top, it’s the bottom-heavy rhythms, bombastic contrasts to guitar grinds, that grounds Heaven To a Tortured Mind (Warp), their fourth official full-length release (and follow-up to 2018’s left-field pop coup Safe In The Hands Of Love, a lo-fi psyche wonder). This commingling of ideas produces a glorious rock record from the Black Diaspora.
“I started playing instruments when I was about 17 in Knoxville, where I was brought up,” Tumor said in the 2017 Pitchfork interview. “I got a bass guitar for Christmas and I taught myself corny classic rock: Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin. Then I started teaching myself acoustic and electric guitar. My grades were so bad my parents took my guitars and bass away, so I just taught myself how to play keyboard. So, in a way, they helped me out in a huge way by doing that. I started making electronic music, and people started to notice my stuff on the Internet. I made my first shitty record on GarageBand. It was pretty nasty.”
Acknowledging that their beginnings were very piercing, rising up in the noise scene, gave birth to a different mentality about creating. “It’s a pure way to start, if you don’t think about the scene—the noise scene is pretty scary. But when you get into music and start with noise, there’s so much room to grow from there. If you start with some really technical shit, you just grow from the colonized way of thinking about music.”
When the mantra “Gospel For A New Century,” a different type of nasty, opens Tumorʻs latest loop-tastic rock amalgam, it kicks off with fire-and-damnation Godzilla horn lines, blazing up scenery. Tumorʻs presence, on this project, gets situated mostly by crunchy guitar riffs, overboard drum fills, and epic fog machine stagecraft. This 12-song release stands as an achievement for Tumor who, once again, stretches out exponentially their pool of influence.
Mainstream and noise, rock and beat-conducted arrangements, expertly fashioned string arrangements—all get housed in this victorious contradiction in sound. Positioned between psych-rock and some type of pop, the album rolls up control and bedlam into a 21st-century invocation, pointing out that old-guard rock regime standards are a bit… ineffectual.
If you listen, between the clank and brimstone, under the reverb and pomposity, a faint hip-hop DNA strain lurks in the composition of Gospel For A New Century. When those accents come to the fore mid-song, quiet moments glide along via agile basswork, pushing along lyrics of seduction. The New Rock God of this project is holding court, attempting to seduce. And then, with hairpin tumult, things revert back to guitar-driven energies. Tumor is multi-versed and successful with all the nuances.
“Romanticist,” a quick R&B ditty with rock strains that boast lyrics of devotion, just for one night, finds our protagonist, cunningly again chatting up another hopeful paramour, saying all the right things during in a 3am devotional, amidst fog and mirror atmospherics.
“Hasdallen Lights” and “Asteroid Blues”, two delightfully unexpected instrumentals, change the tenor of the release. These beat-driven hang-out sessions, strategically placed midway through and towards the end, yearn for beat head attention. Both cuts, stand-out examples of layered orchestration, are devoted rhythmic narratives that offer a winning lane of inclusively for the non-guitar lover.
Special honorable mention goes to the fat chunky bump of “Asteroid Blues,” which jiggles along, posing like a fully equipped Tame Impala cast-off, with a nasty half-time break down too? Shit. Tumor does it all.