yves tumor
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Yves Tumor Heaven to a Tortured Mind Warp

If Yves Tumor is not a musical magician outright, then perhaps they’re a sonic alchemist; a Paracelsus for the age of streaming. Less than two years after delivering what already feels like their masterpiece (2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love), Tumor doubles down with Heaven to a Tortured Mind, a record that zeroes in on the more rock-leaning impulses of its predecessor while retaining its sense of invention.

Barrelling out of the gate with the colossal Gospel for a New Century, the opening track and lead single sets the tone for the entirety of the project: dark, ambiguous love songs as crooned by a dimension-bending demon during their Vegas glam rock revue. Such a description would seem far-fetched were it not the exact aesthetic Tumor presented for Gospel’s accompanying music video, prosthetic horns and all.

But in spite of its glossy exterior, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is altogether more cohesive, leaving the impression of an album that is hermetically sealed. This is largely accomplished with its impenetrable production, layered so densely and adroitly that attempting to deconstruct it boggles the mind. Note the clash of crisp bass and percussion with sun-dappled guitar and vocals masked in reverb on the interlude Romanticist, and how the screech of fireworks guide you directly into the angular aching of Dream Palette. Then there’s the balance of go-for-broke shredding and muted freak-folk on Kerosene!, done with maddening ease, while Folie Imposée constructs a slow jam out of a maniacal soundpad of samples. Any of these choices would be notably bold – that Tumor makes five of them in each song is staggering.

Just as cohesive, and just as occasionally inscrutable, are Tumor’s lyrics. Gospel for a New Century intones that this may be a break-up record (“‘Cause when I really needed you the most, yeah, you were gone then”), though things only proceed to darken from there. Medicine Burn finds them cooing about “severed heads on the mental guillotine” in a sing-song manner punctuating its morbidity, while Romanticist offers the wonderfully evocative “I wanna dance into your hurricane”. It is on Dream Palette, however, that we are given something resembling a skeleton key to the album’s overarching concept: “Floating through what feels like a declaration of love, our hearts are in danger/ Tell me, is this fundamental love?

That said, this is Yves Tumor, and we know better than to assume there is a definitive way to interpret their work. When they crack a menacing grin at the close of the visual for Gospel for a New Century, we are reminded of a certain Warp labelmate who also has a penchant for working at the cutting edge of musical innovation while shrouding their identity. Musically, Heaven to a Tortured Mind could not be further from the work of Richard D James, but when it comes to audaciousness, they’re kindred spirits.