Music Reviews
Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Yves Tumor Heaven to a Tortured Mind

(Warp) Rating - 8/10

It was always a little difficult to get a feel for Yves Tumor. As the rave reviews rolled in for 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love, something about that messy, fragmented album never really worked in full. While there were occasional moments of real excitement and promise amongst the snippets of textured but boring production, that promise never extended to more than just a song or two. Due to that, it’d make sense to be uncertain about their latest, Heaven to a Tortured Mind, which is supposed to be rooted in fuzziness and psychedelia while still feeling unique to Sean Bowie’s vision. Tumor’s latest works on the issues of Safe while reaching for new genres and ideas, creating a project that’s a very strong step in the right direction.

Gospel For a New Century slams the door open here with skipping horns and textured drums, feeling like an intentional change of pace from anything you’ve known about Tumor’s messy but fascinating style in the past. Once their distinct but soulful voice drops in, something exciting seems afoot. With the huge electric guitars that blaze through the chorus, it’s easy to excuse a line like “come and light my fire, baby” because of how genuinely explosive it all is. As quickly as it had erupted, the song cuts off harshly in only three minutes and twenty seconds. This is only the first track on the album, but it seems like a perfect thesis, with its aching heartbreak and explosive psychedelic rock backing.

That energy is kept up with the following string of songs, which starts with the swirling chaos of Medicine Burn. While the more abrasive elements are appreciated, the song slightly overstays its welcome, but thankfully uses Tumor’s voice as a guide through the mayhem. Identity Trade takes wailing saxophones, sloppy synths, and occasionally yelping guitars to blast through what sounds like an abbreviated version of Noid, the best song that Yves Tumor had made up until now. But those songs feel like a slow build to this album's highlight, Kerosene!, a duet with Beyoncé collaborator Wynter Gordon and also the album's best slow jam aside from Super Stars. As soon as the sensual Prince-like guitar explodes midway through the track, it feels like Bowie is having a blast. 

While there are moments that feel less remarkable (the insignificant Hasdallen Lights or the groovy but repetitive Asteroid Blues), Heaven to a Tortured Mind succeeds when it’s mostly focused on creating a sensual yet serious mood throughout. The haunting and mysterious backing vocals at the core of Strawberry Privilege, one of the album's late highlights, are a perfect example of how the set dressing is what makes it whole. Without the fuzzy, funky, and pretty textures that help sustain a mood, Sean Bowie’s project could feel stale or self-serious. Thankfully, Bowie seems to know better, making Heavens their best project yet, and one that seriously makes you anticipate what style they may want to play with next. [Believe the Hype]