Yves Tumor, surely one of the most exciting artists working in experimental pop music, is playing at YES this March in support of their new Asymptotical World EP.
Since 2010, Yves Tumor has been making music, under various monikers, that plays with boundaries. Like the films of David Lynch, their music offers up recognisable structures, but holds abstractions. Touchstones like rock, psychedelia and electronica are all there with their accompanying tropes, but often as soon as you find something tangible to hold onto, it splinters into shards and you’re left wondering what, exactly, it is you’re now hearing, or feeling.
Sean Lee Bowie AKA Yves Tumor, an elusive character from Knoxville, Tennessee, grew up on their father’s Motown records while learning bass, guitar and keyboard. A few years later they started hanging out in Los Angeles’ experimental scene, and producing noisy sound art using GarageBand. Fast forward to their breakout album, 2020’s Heaven to a Tortured Mind, and everything is there – the soulful groove and the clarity of Motown and also the experimental chaos of their early output, now channelled by a charismatic bandleader and vocalist.
‘Gospel For a New Century’, the lead single and album opener, creeps along via hellish brass samples and prowling basslines, which gradually become more discordant as Tumor’s soulful voice rasps lyrics of love and loss. ‘Medicine Burn’ strikes a similarly unholy balance between clarity and chaos, structure and abstraction, as gory images of severed heads meet woozy vocals and gnarled elastic guitars which sound like they’re emerging, wide-eyed from a particularly illuminating acid trip.
Tomor’s prismatic world only grows more colourful on The Asymptotical World EP, which takes in certain conventions of goth rock, dream pop and shoegaze, before they’re deconstructed and coated with an internet-age sheen. Single ‘Jackie’, co-written/produced by Chris Greatti (Yungblud, Poppy), is ostensibly a love song, but the bit-crushed drums and ruthlessly digitised backdrop offend the lyrical humanness, mirrored by a video featuring a DeepFake of the artist, who battles their lover in an otherworldly, animated landscape.
Elsewhere ‘Katrina’ mutates elements from late ’80s rock, early ’00s punk and psychedelia, while ‘Tuck’ sees an appearance from industrial noise duo NAKED, whose oscillation between conspiratorial, raspy whispers and turbulent screams makes for a theatrically dark masterpiece. ‘And Loyalty Is A Nuisance Child’, meanwhile, lays out a simple tune which draws on the gothic melodrama of pop punk, before it deconstructs via crushed electronics, processed vocals and ethereal guitars.
It’s both a difficult and enthralling release from an artist at the height of their powers. Notorious for their incendiary live performances, their full band show at YES on 10 March is definitely one for your diary.