DISCLAIMER: Read the spotlight first. Listen to the album unshuffled (obviously).
Welcome. If you read the artist spotlight first and then came to this album review, congratulations on following basic instructions. If not, go read the other article. Or don’t and be confused. I don’t care.
You (should) already know Yves Tumor and a brief synopsis about their trajectory from the electronic scene into a more vocal-centric sound. This journey culminated in their April release of their sophomore album for WARP records, Heaven for a Tortured Mind.
And holy fuck, did they deliver. I deep dove through hours of dystopian electronic music and finally arrived here.
A consistent through line in all of Yves Tumor’s work seems to be chaos. The production, the subject matter, the outfits, the performances, the interviews- there is chaos and discord everywhere. Instead of a chorus we get a cacophony. Instead of an alternative guy wearing a shirt with flowers we get a demonic cat monster. Personally, I fuck with the anarchy. It conveys some pretty abstract concepts while also producing combinations of sounds which although not always pleasant are always unique.
So now how the fuck do I explain this?
Heaven for a Tortured Mind is the most perfectly ordered chaos I’ve ever heard. As if you drew the most surreal shapes but managed to color in the lines. Or maybe the opposite? Like you filled a kid’s coloring book with colors nobody had ever seen before.
Let me just bite the bullet and get into it. This album is a masterpiece. As a whole, it blends sounds from across genres to convey a narrative of a deranged love affair. We bounce from alternative rock to psychedelic funk to electronic blues. The production is unrivalled, with instruments coming in and out when they please. The guitars and bass in particular just do what they need to do. In a more abstract sense, the album elicits a pretty hypnotic and dreamlike feeling of wandering, with the occasional moment of nightmarish energy. Very Alice in Wonderland.
The first track is probably my favorite. Gospel for a New Century. You should honestly stop reading this and just go listen to that song and then come back. Ha. I bet you’ve never read an article that gave you an order. Well, what are you fucking waiting for, quarantine to end? Chop chop.
The song opens with some marching fanfare. Complete with horn instruments. Then Yves Tumor pops in with these soulful vocals that resemble a more traditional alternative sound than we are accustomed to. The song eventually erupts into an explosion of horns, drums, and guitar as Yves Tumor hops onto a more rock n’ roll style sound.
I particularly like this line, so get ready to hear me talk about it longer than I have to:
“This ain’t by design, girl! Take it softer, you know I’m out my mind girl! Don’t make this harder. Come and light my fire baby, how much longer until December?”
This is as good a place as any to unpack the subject matter which will be addressed throughout the album. Yves Tumor seems to be caught up in some toxic, hot/cold love affair. Gospel For a New Century revolves around Tumor imploring their lover to go easy on them. The lover in question seems “heartless” but Tumor does not care.
Then you get to that line. This passion is not by design or in Yves Tumor’s control. They’re out of their mind. Yet somewhere along the way we get one such a well designed line. Take it softer and make it harder are total opposites. Making/Taking Soft/Hard. Duh. Then we get to them begging for their fire to be lit but also asking how much longer they should wait for December. Did you not pay attention in English class? Juxtaposition of hot and cold. Just like whatever toxic relationship good old Yves has found themself in. Well done.
Before we get back into the album as a whole, I need to touch on the music video.
Imma just keep it a buck with y’all. This one is not for the faint of heart. Shit is weird. But also masterfully made so check it out if you don’t mind nightmare fuel. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The music video is something that needs to be seen to be believed. The video was directed by wearable makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench, and kudos… the costumes all look amazing. Prosthetics and practical effects always beat CGI when done right. Yves Tumor is dressed as the ancient Greek God Pan (NOT THE DEVIL, SURPRISINGLY) who served as a deity of fertility and the wilderness. I’m actually a pretty big Greek mythology nerd so I thought that was pretty fire. He’s a faun or satyr. If you read Percy Jackson, Grover. If you didn’t GOAT LEGS.
Our version of Pan either sits atop a throne or sings into a microphone while joined by a series of backup dancers. The backup dancers are by far my favorite part of this video. They are kind of wearing the traditional black leather bra Beyonce “GET IN FORMATION” fits but they are cows. I’m not talking Doja Cat. I am telling you these are Beyonce backup dancers with cow heads and legs. There’s also some weird fish lady? Oh yeah and a naked slenderman demon woman contorting her body all over the place.
I guess I should try to give an interpretation of this video. It very obviously has to do with sex. Pan is a god commonly associated with fertility. Maybe the cow heads on the women is a commentary on how women are objectified sexually similar to livestock? Maybe the contorting slender man is a metaphor for… good skin care routines? And the fish lady just reminds me of Shark Tale which was a dumb movie.
Fuck I’ve already written a book and only talked about ONE song on this album. Luckily, Jose has hit me with an extendo word count (You’re Welcome -Jose). So it looks like you bastards are stuck in a sexy demon cowland with me.
Second track is Medicine Burn. In my opinion, this song comes as a return to form for Yves following Gospel. It reminds me of tracks like Noid and Lifetime. The song is a discordant almost whiny discussion of a woman. She is described monstrously, with a severed head on a mental guillotine(or seven heads honestly I can’t tell) filled with 600 bloody teeth. Tumor also mentions that they have nothing left to fear but the wilderness and that they see a mysterious man. Maybe Pan? Either way, this one is more of a punk song about a guy trying to avoid a demon monster woman, or in layman’s terms, my sophomore year of high school.
Identity Trade slows us down. Less severed heads with hundreds of teeth, more blues riffs. A lot of discussion about spirits and reflections. Honestly not sure what to make of this song. Pass.
Kerosene! This song came out as a single, which I can totally get behind. This song can easily stand on its own.
We begin with a less harsh, more melodic tune and Yves is joined by a female singer. The song revolves around the two lovers informing each other that they can complete one another. It ultimately bombards us with a pretty fire soul ballad. Maybe this is a very personal thing, but I love when songs talk about dreams and fantasies. This song does that a lot. Also kerosene is flammable, so I guess we’re back to “come and light my fire baby!” Which I prefer to “severed head with 600 teeth.”
Hasdallen Lights is a groovy funky track. I’m pretty proud of the metaphor I wrote down in my notes: Steve Lacy… but vampire. The production honestly takes the forefront at this song, relegating the lyrics to a more background status. Which is fine, the production is quite groovy and psychedelic. But the lyrics are pretty profound. When they ask themself what they crave, they respond “hustle.” Which we can all relate to. When’s the last time you wore pants?
I googled Hasdallen Lights because I’m kind of like a journalist, right? Nah. But anyways, they’re like some weird fucking lights in the sky. Also, Yves Tumor spelled it wrong. It’s Hesdallen. I don’t know if that was intentional. People think they’re caused by UFOs. Which the government confirmed by the way. Not saying that it means aliens caused Coronavirus, but I’m not saying it doesn’t.
The next two songs go together. Not only were Romanticist and Dream Palette released together, but they’re just made to hear together. I would say Romanticist blends the groovy aura of Hasdallen Lights with an almost Daft Punk infusion. Yves is joined by the vocals of Kelsey Lu on both tracks. Also there are fireworks in both tracks. Which is funny. Not to you, just to me. I used to be afraid of fireworks. Anyways, one firework concludes Romanticist and ushers the start of Dream Palette. What was once groovy is now angst. Major yearning and longing going on here. As a whole, I’d say these two songs are like two sides of a coin. Romanticist is this optimistic upbeat side of this dreamlike reverie, Dream Palette the intense cravings that come with it. Like it’s a drug you can’t get enough of.
Super Stars is fucking insane. It almost sounds like a Prince song. Listen to it. I’m not really going to do it justice in writing. There’s something kind of ephemeral about the sound. It’s got these blues riffs but also these electronic infusions and it ends up feeling like you’re floating in outer space thinking about that girl you were simping for before quarantine.
Folie Imposee stands as the song which harkons back to Yves’ electronic roots the best. Production certainly outshines vocals. A nice homage to Yves’ earlier electronic roots, but honestly felt somewhat disappointed hearing this coming off of Super Stars.
Strawberry Privilege. Huh. I personally like it though I am confused by the direction. Yves Tumor kind of whispers instead of singing. Like a blend of ASMR and that guy on Vine who said avocados that weird way. There’s also this weird angelic choir present. That’s really all I’ve got because I’m too excited for the last two tracks.
Asteroid Blues. Listen, if you couldn’t tell by my need to inject curse words every other sentence and my love for edginess, yes I watch anime. And obviously I like Cowboy Bebop. This song reminds me of Vicious from Cowboy Bebop. It starts cool and groovy. Pretty badass. But it slowly devolves into this almost scary song. Towards the end, there’s little girls chanting or some horrifying shit. If any of y’all are lames who make anime music video edits make one of Vicious to this song.
A Greater Love concludes our romp through Yves Tumor’s tortured mind. A slower track filled with more soul. The song is easy on the ears. You know when a song just feels smooth? There are even bouts of electric guitar that seem abrupt but still contribute to this feeling of tranquility. About halfway through, Yves Tumor stops the vocals and the instruments take us through the outro. Kind of like it’s time for us to wake up from this weird dream state.
And all of that range, from the pagan god Pan to Cowboy Bebop to Vampire Steve Lacy lasted a grand total of… 36 minutes.
I bring up the album length to end this article with something I love about Yves Tumor as an artist. Few artists seem to possess this level of versatility. Heaven for a Tortured Mind sends us leaping from genre to genre without ever seeming rough or poorly mixed. Even those who do possess this level of versatility could not capture such chaos so concisely. In a mere forty minute album, Yves Tumor takes us on a dreamy trip through the struggles of love. Nothing in the album does not fit, nothing seems out of place. I can’t recommend checking this album out enough. I know you can find 36 minutes. And that’s all Yves Tumor needs to blow your mind.
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