Yves Tumor - Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) review: always exciting

 (Yves Tumor)
(Yves Tumor)

In one way, Yves Tumor isn’t particularly accessible. Aside from a brief phone interview with the New York Times in 2020, the Miami musician (who uses they/them pronouns) appears to have only spoken in print twice: once to gold-toothed French fashion icon Michèle Lamy and once to alt-rock firebrand Courtney Love. Love described them in Interview magazine as follows: “The reason I think we’re a good match is because you’re disagreeable and I’m disagreeable and we’re both incredibly othered and you don’t seem to have much of an interest in being fucking warm, fuzzy, and user-friendly.”

Tumor, whose real name, Sean Bowie, also sounds like it might be a glamorous alias, didn’t disagree. But musically, despite the intimidating title of their fourth studio album, there’s plenty that could be classed as user-friendly here. Having started out making experimental, sometimes frightening electronic music, as their stature has grown they’ve adopted an increasingly accessible indie rock sound. The opening song, God is a Circle, begins with some urgent sampled breathing but that fades quickly beneath a punky bassline, basic live drum beat and squalls of electric guitar.

Their last album, 2020’s Heaven to a Tortured Mind, was their breakthrough, offering still complex songs that often embraced rock dynamics and winning rafts of critical acclaim. Since then they were heard as a guest on Willow’s album Coping Mechanism, which whizzes enjoyably between pop-punk and metal. Much of this collection sounds like a live rock band, especially the grungey Meteora Blues, which adds a fizzing Smashing Pumpkins guitar sound to a mighty chorus.

But as their outlandish appearance suggests, there’s only so much commercial dilution they’re prepared to undertake. Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood begins with an appealing guitar riff, but it sounds far away and is soon dispensed with in favour of messier layers of instrumentation. Then it shifts into what feels like a different song altogether at the halfway point, and another near the close, Tumor’s distinctive falsetto providing some small amount of consistency.

There are hints of Prince when they sing in a lower register on another punky one, Operator, which eventually adds vigorous cheerleader chanting to its busy sound. Even when the melodies are strongest, as on the more sample-heavy Purified by the Fire or the poppiest tune, Lovely Sewer, there’s a feeling that they have the skill and adventurousness to send the song in any of a dozen different directions. You could call it warm and fuzzy in places, but it’s always exciting.