On its own Safe in the Hands of Love seems like a gentle title for a record. Is’t best however to take a long hard look at the front cover of this album and get yourself ready to be blown away by Yves Tumor’s unannounced third.
A few weeks ago we saw Sean Bowie, AKA Yves Tumor, perform at Le Guess Who? festival in Utrecht (NL). The gig we we treated to a dense glimpse of his inner paranoia which is dragged through a room filled with murky beats and indie psychedelica.
Bowie is what you can call a self made man. At a young age he taught himself to play drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards and left birthplace Knoxville for the more open minded California when he was twenty years old. Here he met Mykki Blanco with whom he toured through Asia en Europe. From that point he moved to Europe and began working on more experimental material as Yves Tumor. It led to all sorts of scattered project that are hard to define and created a mysterious ‘who is he?’ buzz surrounding his persona. In 2017 Tumor signed with the prestigious Warp label and with no prior announcement released his third major work, Safe in the Hands of Love.
The main singles of the album ‘Noid’ and ‘Licking An Orchid’ are accompanied by videos in which he makes no secret of his most inner feeling. Tumor shows himself as exposed, assured and vulnerable. In the catchy string-sampled ‘Noid’ he sings about fearing for his life due to police brutality thats keeps him inside his home and eventually sliding into a depression. Cynically, ‘Noid’ gives us the albums most hooky chorus: “911, 911, 911: can’t trust them”. On ‘Licking An Orchid’ Tumor hits a different tone. Here subdued psych-pop and hip hop are pieced together in a heart-piercing duet with James K unfolds. It somewhat reminds of the early days of trip-hop, until the surprising sky-tearing guitar comes in at the end of the track.
Safe in the Hands of Love’s production is surprising in each track. It’s instrumentation blends into each other which gives it a fragile lo-fi feel. Many of the tracks seem to fall apart but in fact are carefully structured, thus always stand firm like a tree that branches out in various styles.
To us ‘Economy of Freedom’ is one a the centre pieces of the album. Here Tumor teams up with dark-ambient producer Croatian Amor and decontructs a a sub-bass line with crackling synths that haunt around track. It’s the perfect track for staring at the album art. If your not spooked yet you could skip to ‘Recognizing the Enemy’ which in sound and lyrics is a tense reflection about a broken relationship. As Tumor grievously sings “When I can’t recognize myself. Inside my own living hell” the drums push him to a voice-shredding ending. ‘Hope in Suffering (Escaping Oblivion & Overcoming Powerlessness)’ is even more bone-chilling. Here the spoken word that is placed against a wall of dark synths is dejected to the core.
The album’s finale is two-sided. ‘All The Love We Have Now’ piles up one low bitrate synth on the other and somehow it creates a certain kind of gentle warmth. This warmth killed off again with some very blunt distortion on the closing track ‘Let The Lioness In You Flow Freely’ that unexpectedly stops with a sample of Jan Haflin’s ‘Angelfire’ from 80s horror movie Demon Queen. Yep, Safe in the Hands of Love will leave you dazed for a moment there.
Yves Tumor truly is a child of this time and finds his peers in serpentwithfeet, Dean Blunt, Jlin, Arca and others. On this thrilling work Tumor gives us a deep insight into the human mind that sometimes plays tricks on us while struggling with the blurriness of today’s reality.
Label: Warp, 2018
- Faith in Nothing Except in Salvation (1:33)
- Economy of Freedom (4:55) ft. Croatian Amor
- Honesty (5:01)
- Noid (3:29)
- Licking an Orchid ft. James K (4:38)
- Lifetime (3:42)
- Hope in Suffering (Escaping Oblivion & Overcoming Powerlessness) (4:56)
- Recognizing the Enemy (4:49)
- All the Love We Have Now (3:22)
- Let the Lioness in You Flow Freely (5:32)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 251118