Yves Tumor defies genre. The Miami-born musical genius has created some of the most forward-thinking experimental music of the last few years. 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love was a melodic yet frantic album that found its balance within chaos and unsettling energy. It’s that dichotomy in sound and energy that makes his projects so fascinating to listen to, and this is amplified further with the release of his fourth studio album Heaven to a Tortured Mind. I’m gonna say it now – it is an absolute masterpiece and will potentially go down as one of my favourite albums of the year. With 12 tracks spanning 36 minutes, Yves Tumor is able to craft a sound that is claustrophobic yet liberating, creating a freaky, moody, melodic and rhythmic body of work that sounds cohesive and absolutely stunning.
One thing that caught my ear immediately upon first listen is the quality of the drumming throughout the entire project. Along with the stellar, groovy basslines, the talented musical polymath is able to craft an infectious and soulful sound with beats that are at the heart of it all. From the dynamic and grandiose opener “Gospel For A New Century” to the utterly explosive and cacophonous beauty of “Dream Palette” (which happens to be one of my favourite tracks on the entire album), the poignant punchiness of the drumming throughout makes this such an engaging listening experience. I’ve been bobbing my head at every single track, just mesmerised by the amount of groove and pure sensual soul Yves Tumor is able to put into the drum and bass-led rhythms throughout these 12 tracks. The freakishness throughout the project is led by some incredible guitar leads and solos, as well as Yves’ raspy yet sensual vocals. “Kerosene!” is a perfect example of this. It starts with a slow paced guitar and synth-driven melody, assisted by vocals from Yves Tumor and Diana Gordon, before exploding into life with an incredible guitar solo that still gives me chills every time I listen to it. This is the level of freaky, soulful and liberating energy that persists throughout all of the tracks on this album, and it is so incredibly addicting. The strings on “Hasdallen Lights” are beautiful, while the dynamism of “Romanticist” with its textured guitar leads, striking synths and punchy basslines make it one of the more musically dense moments on the album despite its short duration. It flows perfectly into “Dream Palette,” which sounds like a majestic firework display. The colourful guitar leads, coupled with Yves Tumor’s angsty vocals make this, as previously mentioned, a stand-out track. The eclectic and off-kilter drumming on “Folie Imposée” is almost maddening but in the best possible way, while tracks like “Super Stars” and “Strawberry Privilege” have a softer, more moody and ethereal tone that add balance and serenity to the harsh and freakish energy that dominates most of this phenomenal project. The album closes with the melodic and soulful “A Greater Love,” a stunningly beautiful love song with additional vocals from Clara La San and Hirakish, who add so much gentle and delicate energy to the track. It’s a reflective way to close out this incredible body of work, and I am amazed at how cohesive and incredibly sequenced this album is.
Lyrically, Yves Tumor studies topics of love and loss with poetic nihilism. On “Identity Trade” he laments “I saw my first lover clutching a dagger sunk beneath the water,” while on “Medicine Burn” he brings gory imagery, singing “Severed head on the mental guillotine / Life of blasphemy, a room full of kings’ severed heads.” It’s this gory, horror-like tone of his music which makes me want to come back to it again and again. The softer and more sensual moments are equally as powerful, as exemplified on “Super Stars,” where he sings “Girl, I can’t quit you, you’re my super, my super star.” It’s this dichotomy of nihilism and hope throughout his lyrics that makes him such a magnetic presence, as well as his ability to channel and embrace his vulnerability on record. Using gory imagery helps capture a mood and setting for his music to flourish, and it’s amazing how he’s been able to find that sweet spot so perfectly on this record.
Heaven to a Tortured Mind is without a doubt Yves Tumor’s most complete work to date. It’s a freakish, sensual and cathartic release that spans beyond genre, defying categorisation and pushing the boundaries of what music can sound like in this new decade. It’s a profound and moving body of work that I will undoubtedly be replaying throughout the year, and I hope he continues to strive musically wherever he is, because a talent like his is rarely found today. Thanks for this incredible experience!