Tape Quarantine: Yves Tumor-Heaven to a Tortured Mind

text by digital-media

22 April, 2020

With Internal Music Director under self-quarantine, Matthew McPherson (Wane Lietoc) has taken to their personal tapes, highlighting and documenting the most outstanding. For this week’s edition, here is a look at Yves Tumor’s debut EP, Heaven for a Tortured Mind.

For most, self-quarantine does not provide a space for sensuality and there’s only so much friggin’ Beach House that can wash over me or Angel Olsen I will wail to. Thus, it surprised me this past Saturday when the latest offering from Yves Tumor, Heaven for a Tortured Mind, was dropped off in my mailbox. It took weeks for the tape of his previous album, Safe in the Hands of Love to arrive, so I had to immediately listen.


Tumor’s untethered themselves from any conceptions that his ambient noise for the Pan label in 2016-2017 may have provoked on 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love, a radical free-wheeling opus that took apart pop and made it atmospheric ambient, kicked up r&b to its noisiest, and looked to a future of electro-shocked version of rock. It took multiple listens to fall into place, but when it did, it was obvious that Tumor had given the masses an “experimental” album that offered insight into a plethora of seemingly endless ideas.


The only question is where’d they go next.


HTATM commences with the swinging “Gospel for a New Century”, their grandest opener yet. Running just shy of 3 minutes, it is a densely packed ROCK song, complete with record skips, a funky bassline, and brass section that demands your attention. Arriving with a video that features Tumor’s signature fashion (now as the horniest devil this side of Alesmith), the only continuation from SITHOL is Tumor’s Cheshire grin from last year’s video for Noid. Whatever we thought we knew about Tumor was wrong.


Sonically, the album does what any killer “genre revival” album should do: treat it like an amusement park to play around with. While I peg myself for dubbing this “glam rock” when it has got full blown elements of gothic noise pop (Asteroid Blues), r&b tinged funk, and even trip hop (Kerosene!!), Tumor revels in the gender defying and sexual ecstasy that still reckon with glam rock a defining template that radiates this energy. It still burns as bright as it did 50 years prior, with Tumor’s production aptly updating it for today with glitch and samples of elements like fireworks (Romanticist) coming to the forefront


There’s a quote attributed to Tumor who stated an interest in “making hits people play over and over” and the tracks on this album seem to qualify. With a majority rarely going beyond 3 minutes, Tumor summons up an idea full force (like Identity Trade’s vivid drum rhythm) that subdues everything around you, before departing in a flash! Every listen rewards with a new bassline or sample and it seems to have been made for the hedonistic demon nightclub that occupies your fantasies. Even on tape, with the bass and noise murkier, the devil is literally in those details that scream for a party. It’s too ironic that this Spring’s tour that was supposed to have happened never did >:/


If you pay attention to those details, you’ll notice that Tumor’s vocals are more in the forefront of this album, with a plethora of images that are only more sadomasochistic and surreal. A “first lover, clutching a dagger sunk beneath the water” haunts “Identity Trade”, six hundred severed heads and the image of sets of teeth are repeated ad nausem on “Medicine Burn”, with the promise of “our very own bloodbath, a spiritual bloodbath” being on the menu in “Folie Imposée”. And when Tumor is not sharing the latest in these fantasies, they coo for connection.


The SITHOL stand-out “Noid” demonstrated Tumor’s uncanny ability to strike an urgency and empathy as they pleaded for their loved ones not to trust police authority with the simple “911, can’t trust them”. Their best deliveries on HTATM still strike that urgency, striking out a desperate, monomaniacal plea for being your love. The aforementioned “Gospel…” opens cockily begging “I think I can solve it,” and on clear frontrunner for song of the year, “Kerosene!” Tumor makes good on it. Oozing with the potency of early Massive Attack and Tricky, Tumor and Diana Gordon share a duet as both claim to be anything they need, temporally and spatially transcendent. When the guitar solo strikes like a bolt from the blue, it blows up in a flash. There’s nothing that has quite hit like this in 2020, with both cathartic singalong and heavy vibe energy-I have good doubt there will be any time soon.


Tumor joins a unique class of art-damaged, queer indie, alongside (two glammy tapes I owe) Deerhunter’s and REM’s equally ballsy and horny Monomania and Monster, respectively. Yet while those albums tried to expunge themselves of their desires, Tumor outright revels in these bizarre pairings and tendencies. While Heaven to a Tortured Mind does not offer crazed ambient interludes or go full dance that have always been bubbling, Tumor has effectively deconstructed glam rock for a new generation of iconoclasts. And now, I’ve got an album to haunt my dreams as I fall asleep with my Walkman.