After this fourth album and second for Warp, we are still none the wiser about exactly who or what Yves Tumor is. Opening track ‘Gospel For a New Century’ comes in on a bed of scratchy horns, rolling drums and stoned vocals, but with a clear sense of forward momentum. It is a single, a standalone tune, a bastion of focus and thrust that has not been typical of Tumor’s previous work. Could this be, we ask ourselves, a sign of a more straightforward RnB record?
Our questions are answered within seconds of following track ‘Medicine Burn’, with its squalling, compressed guitar tone and nonsensical, pain-ridden lyrics. We are firmly back in the deregulated zone where confusion is king. This is the pattern of Heaven to a Tortured Mind; a give and take between challenge and payoff.
The payoffs don’t come bigger than on ‘Kerosene!’; a five-minute slick, seductive two-way between Tumor and an unnamed female singer that launches into ecstatic, skyscraping, Prince-esque electric guitar solos at multiple points. It is an irresistible track, the biggest moment of his career to date and proof that he could be a major overground star one day if the notion were ever to interest him.
But evidently, as of now, that is not the plan. There are too many simultaneous ideas, too much comfort in saturating the sound palette throughout Heaven to a Tortured Mind for it to have mass appeal, and yet it is that very freewheeling experimentation that makes it such an intoxicating listen. A little like the moodboard records of recent years by Thundercat, King Krule or Gonjasufi, the power here comes from the constant ambush of new ingredients, all unified by the connective tissue of its auteur’s musical personality. Genre identification is redundant in the face of this level of artistic freedom.
Together with 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love, this album represents the imperial phase of Yves Tumor’s career, him out at the vanguard of the world that he himself created. Only he can know what happens next.