Album Review: Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind.

Credit: Jordan Hemingway

Experimental electronic and Warp Records; can you name a more iconic duo in the pantheon of left-field music? That I’m sure you can, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the British label isn’t at the top of the list.

Such has been the broad scope of their eclecticism, we were brought the likes of AFX, Boards of Canada, Squarepusher, Hudson Mohawke and Gonjasufi to name a microcosm of talent Warp have brought to our attention.

Warp’s modus vivendi seems to allow the almost esoteric features of artists to shine through and given the string of success they’ve curated, managed to attract a wider audience without compromising the artistic merits of the musicians.

It’s what makes Warp a hallowed institution in music; you know what you’re going to get with the label and even if you don’t, 30+ years of getting it right is a pretty good law of averages.

So if you’re not familiar with Tennessee producer Yves Tumor, don’t worry – it’s another name to add to Warp’s pantheon of successes.

Heaven to a Tortured Mind follows on from 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love by expanding more into the soul influences that the previous release experimented with.

Historically, Yves Tumor was part of the “post-chillwave” movement in the earlier part of last decade and though that past where the musician worked under the monicker Teams influenced much of his later work, it’s the maturing from his Warp debut that is displayed impressively on the follow-up.

The opening track to the album almost succinctly sums up the musicality that it proceeds; “Gospel For A New Century.” A mixture of soul music with an assertive, ostentatious chorus both vocally and sonically, we know that the music can create those abstruse electronic moments (more about that to follow.) What listeners will be remarking on regarding this album is how Yves Tumor has centralized on those more profound moments.

“Kerosene” is a fine example of this – selected as a single shortly after the release of “Gospel For A New Century”, it brings together the intertwining vocals of Tumor and Diana Gordon, crafting something that would easily sit on an ’80s movie soundtrack as much as it resonates to the modern-day throwback to all things “retrowave.” Which for all intents and purposes seems like a more prevalent take on the vaporwave scene (which still has it cabalistic nature of evolving just a few steps ahead of widespread acceptance.)

Not convinced? Tell me then after you’ve listened to “Romanticist” you don’t get a synthwave vibe from it. It’s modern trends on the verge of being part of that collective consciousness consummated with years of refinement from the musician. It, again, points directly to Warp’s overall A&R habits. It works – it’s not alienating but it’s not coddling the listener either by being overly derivative.

Heaven to a Tortured Mind hasn’t completely abandoned the more abrasive moments from Tumor’s troubadour past which saw him spend time in Berlin and Leipzig. The analgesic throng of “Medicine Burn” cuts with its choral samples of effected trip-hop drumbeats and jagged synth samples.

“Dream Palette” and “Asteroid Blues” present themselves as outwardly aggressive compositions on the album too, rather than the seething malevolence elsewhere. “Dream Palette” in particular has the kind of catchy hook than might be more at home to a burgeoning post-punk scene – that more of the John Lydon-PiL Album ilk than the more abrasive moments that followed.

And yes I am indeed thinking more along the lines of “Rise” and “This Is Not A Love Song” making that comparison.

Fundamentally though, this album is more about the more unassuming moments in Tumor’s songwriting; and they work. They have been distilled down to create a work that bridges so many moments – it can be a relaxed, post-night out work listened to with fellow revellers or it can be a more introspective, headphones-in-ears series of seclusion from the world.

It works on a number of different, more the most part, poised levels. Which really does show how much Yves Tumor has grown as a producer. It’s also the accessibility to a newer audience that adds even more gravitas to the album, yet not at the expense of what I can only assume is the artist’s overall vision.

Heaven to a Tortured Mind is getting heavy praise across the music press and rightfully so. This is a very confident musician who is only gaining further self-assurance with each release. The critical mass of composition throughout the years has brought Yves Tumour to this point – refined, succinct, and a watershed moment for not only the musician but I would say for Warp Records also.

Heaven to a Tortured Mind is available now through Warp.

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