Yves Tumor makes what could be defined as rock music, but not so much in the direct sonic combinations that the genre is known for. Instead, Tumor makes rock music in the way the counterculture movement the music grew out of is known for, with a focus on creativity, invention, and generating sounds that blast away expectations.
With their latest album, ‘Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)’ the experimental producer and songwriter transcends even further, dipping into electronica, alt-pop and punk territory and landing on a collection of songs that are equally bizarre and delightful.
With their earlier albums, 2016’s ‘Serpent Music’ and 2018’s ‘Safe In The Hands Of Love’, the Tennessee native made a name as an experimental noise artist and avant-garde pop star. Then came 2020’s ‘Heaven To A Tortured Mind’, which was perhaps the first taste of the musician’s gigantic rock aspirations, weaving together tales of sex, the devil and depravity backed by glam rock. Produced by Noah Goldstein (Frank Ocean, Drake, Rihanna) and mixed by Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, The Killers), ‘Praise…’ takes all of that imaginative orchestration of Tumor’s previous releases, and hones it with sleeker construction.
Album opener ‘God Is A Circle’ arrives with screeching, stuttered beeping and frantic breathing right as Tumor’s baritone voice kicks in. “Sometimes, it feels like / There’s places in my mind that I can’t go” they observe of a chaotic relationship over distorted industrial rock. But the album’s first taste isn’t indicative of the rest of its courses: ‘Heaven Surrounds Us Like A Hood’, launches off with a ‘70s-indebted guitar riff and a child’s voice suggesting that “if you die, it’s ok. You can just restart”, before spiralling into dark pop-punk melodies.
On ‘Echolalia’, the song takes on the shape of heavy rock song before transforming into a trembling ballad. ‘Fear Evil Like Fire’ shape-shifts in a similar way, shining a light on Tumor’s ability to sing in soulful vocal ranges as they explain: “Heaven is a place that we all have / We watch the city vibrate”. In lesser hands this broadness would be grating; here, of course, it’s thrilling.
Many of the album’s themes see Tumor questioning familial bonds, ties to themselves and to spirituality, and a struggle with a higher power. In ‘Meteora Blues’, they sing, “I’ll always pray to an empty sky” but in the interlude of ‘Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood’ a child says, “I love the colour blue because it’s in the sky and that’s where God is.” This enigmatic, often contradictory, writing style is why they’ve remained such an alluring prospect in every sense.
‘Praise…’ is evidence of how brilliant rock can be when ambition and talent are met with a creative who isn’t afraid to be strange. It’s an album that could have easily ventured too out-there for the masses to find it palpable, but thanks Tumour’s outsized talent and personality, ‘Praise…’ avoids decadence and proves richly satisfying.
- Release date: March 17, 2023
- Record label: Warp Records