Yves Tumor’s new album, Heaven to a Tortured Mind, begins on a groove. A repeated sample of a Korean funk song from the ’80s starts up, but right before the listener can become entrenched in the rhythm, it stops. Then it starts up again, before stopping just as suddenly. It’s oddly fun to see how many times Tumor plays this trick. Finding glee in abrasive actions like this seems to be Tumor’s goal in their new project, a smorgasbord of bass, drums and distorted production over wailing, yearning vocals.
The LP’s first song, “Gospel for a New Century,” is boisterous and loud, but it still maintains an undeniable groove. The song immediately attacks with a variety of sounds, making it hard to pin down what it’s trying to do on its first try. The track immediately after it, “Medicine Burn,” however, is perhaps a better litmus test for the album. At first, the guitars seem grating and harsh. Quickly, though, they melt into the glorious cacophony behind Tumor’s repetition of “600.”
The album has an energy like an orchestra in a coal mine, combining lush brass with crashing industrial drum breaks. On “Identity Trade,” the guitar is futuristic, conflicting with the jazzy brass, which at times sounds like a lone Parisian playing the saxophone from a rooftop. The lyrics here highlight Tumor’s tendency toward the poetic, singing, “I saw my first lover clutching a dagger sunk beneath the water.”
Lyrical motifs like water, fire, seasons, weather and longing are all plentiful, but, as is often the case in electronic music, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is less about the lyrics and much more about the experimental and fantastic techniques Tumor employs. The vocals aren’t even meant to be a vehicle for the lyrics, but rather an instrument in and of themselves, such as the wiggling earworm of a note Tumor hits, singing the words “all right” in the chorus of “Strawberry Privilege.” Julia Cumming features on the song with angelic backing vocals, fleshing out the voice as an instrument.
After “Strawberry Privilege,” Tumor upholds the electronic tradition with “Asteroid Blues.” A purely instrumental track, it is primarily composed of a grooving bass line, adding in crashes, rings and childlike chants to build onto the track’s industrial sound. In keeping with that tradition, “Folie Imposée” starts like a Justice song. But while it maintains the upbeat, sample-driven style of French house, it becomes much more droning, with frenetic glitching noises popping in and out. This comes after the relatively bouncy “Super Stars,” which features the cleanest guitars on the album.
The highlight of Heaven to a Tortured Mind is a triplet of tracks that ends the album’s first half. “Kerosene!” is futuristic, carrying beautiful balladry like a song from a space elevator. Diana Gordon’s duets with Tumor wrench the listener, and she carries the album into “Hasdallen Lights.” Laid-back and contemplative, this track emphasizes loneliness and questioning with its echoing vocals and repetitive lyrics. It’s short, sweet and a perfect break between “Kerosene!” and the incredible “Romanticist.”
“Romanticist” starts off knowing how well it mixes smooth funkiness and gritty industrialism. It encapsulates the album’s best moments with a punchy chorus that lets Kelsey Lu’s vocals float through the song like those of a ghost. The transition into “Dream Palette” is almost unnoticeable, as fireworks and guitar-fiddling blend together. This is something Tumor does excellently, supplementing tracks with additions that boost the album’s texture without muddying it.
These two tracks are quick and don’t overstay their welcome, but then none of the album’s songs do. Heaven to a Tortured Mind is groovier and less noisy than Tumor’s 2018 project, Safe in the Hands of Love, but it doesn’t lose any of the edge that has made their previous works so impactful. “A Greater Love” is a great end to the album, returning to the core motifs behind “Gospel for a New Century.” This is an album about ups and downs, summers and winters, heats and rains. “A Greater Love” is a melancholic, calm end to an album filled with feverish drum breaks, funky bass lines, chaotic guitars and orchestral backing samples. It brings all these elements forward before slowly fading away as the album concludes its prismatic, radical journey.