Yves Tumor – Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
Yves Tumor’s progression from glitchy ambient music and industrial sound collage into outsized art rock first happened without involving the most universally recognized language of rock music itself. Tumor crafted the songs on breakthrough 2018 album Safe in the Hands of Love through samples, grooves, and an overall intangible atmospheric presence, but rarely something so direct as a guitar riff. But it still felt like rock music, with frequent comparisons to the likes of Prince and Bowie arriving as its lead single “Noid” drew a sharp line in the sand between Yves Tumor as collage artist and Yves Tumor as dynamic audio-visual presence.
With the releases of 2020’s Heaven to a Tortured Mind and the next year’s short-player The Asymptotical Mind, Yves Tumor’s surrealist glam rock began to more closely resemble a particular ideal, namely one driven by big guitars and a charismatic stage show to match. But they achieve a new level of actualization with Praise a Lord that Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds), an album that pushes the hooks and melody to the fore while keeping the avant garde sensibilities to linger in the background. But it’s not necessarily buried; leadoff track and first single “God Is a Circle” is a driving agent of glam menace at around the same BPM as previous tourmates Nine Inch Nails’ “Wish,” with a backdrop of the sounds of breathing, both menacing and sexual, abrasive and euphoric.
In their pursuit of both their brightest pop and boldest rock sounds alike, Yves Tumor found a pair of studio veterans to help realize it: Noah Goldstein, producer for the likes of The Weeknd and FKA twigs, as well as Alan Moulder, whose production and engineering credits wallpaper the sleeve inserts of records by Smashing Pumpkins, Interpol, Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine and select masterpieces in the early shoegaze canon. There are only a few such grunge-gaze moments here, like “Meteora Blues,” but even that power-chord puncher speaks more to its astral namesake, looking beyond the pedalboard toward something more mythical and colossal. Yves Tumor never played it straight before, and still mostly doesn’t here, too creative a mind to be hemmed in by genre, and each song once again feels like an opportunity to try out something a little different: Industrial-darkwave funk on “Operator,” bouncy psychedelia on “Echolalia,” woozy sound collage on “Purified by the Fire,” and richly arranged maximalism on “Ebony Eye.” And all of it, of course, simply sounds sublime; these songs would sound great on Casio keyboards or kazoos, but the attention to detail here simply pushes them over the top.
As Yves Tumor continues to grow into a scenery chewing rock-star persona, we still don’t know all that much about them outside the music itself. (Even their age become something of a strange point of contention prior to the album’s release.) But on Praise a Lord, they—much like the similarly enigmatic Fever Ray—offer flashes of something more vulnerable and personal. They dive into an anguish and darkness on “God Is a Circle” that few of us would dare to consider, declaring that, “You would tear/everything apart/If you found out/Everyone you loved loved someone else.” But on “Lovely Sewer” that vulnerability takes shape through the narration of a love that’s always just out of reach and giving only the smallest dose of themselves: “Always the last to arrive, the first to leave/The smallest flicker of light, you left in a frenzy.” Even when running a gauntlet of pyrotechnics and swirls of color, there remains a willingness to allow access to their heart.
There’s a curious sort of irony with Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume, in that it’s far and away the most immediate of Yves Tumor’s five full-length albums, yet it took me a few listens before it hit me with the same impact as Heaven to a Tortured Mind or Safe in the Hands of Love. Which is perhaps a way of saying it’s less outwardly bombastic, but each listen seemed to make its colorful world a little brighter—a little more limitless. And when it hits, it’s one of Yves Tumor’s most satisfying and purely enjoyable releases. Its predecessors are albums that reward close listening, the finer points rising to the surface and clarifying themselves in real time, and Praise a Lord is too. It’s just not required; dancing, partying, indulging in an escape—all are perfectly fine options when the needle hits the groove.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.