Over the past five years Sean L Bowie, aka Yves Tumor, has built his reputation as a genre-bending polymath, with 2018’s Safe In The Hands Of Love a particularly varied affair. This new release sees Bowie settle into a rock-ish style, peppered with electronic effects and more focused on lyrics and groove than previous releases.
Gospel For A New Century kicks things off with a mid-tempo beat that feels filtered through the lens of ’90s hip-hop production, a stodgy horn loop retriggering periodically as the drums and bass loop in perfect synchronicity. The lyrics dwell on a fractious relationship as the soundscape becomes increasingly chaotic, until a single snare brings the track to an unceremonious end.
Heaven To A Tortured Mind certainly isn’t afraid of cluttering up the arrangement, as almost all of the songs end up adhering to a maximalist approach. Even Kerosene!, an R&B-influenced duet with Diana Gordon that’s initially smooth as melted butter, gets overpowered by lengthy guitar solos and overlapping vocal riffs, a flameout that takes up the majority of the track.
Romanticist has a more glitchy sound to it, twisted samples wrapped around the beat as Bowie sings of infatuation (“I wanna keep you close, right by my side / I swear you’ve got me hypnotised / I wanna give you every piece of me / You know you are my everything”). It’s a chaotic atmosphere, especially when firework samples come in and segue to the next track, Dream Palette, and the similar tempo and groove make these tracks blend together very well.
In a record dominated by verse-chorus structures, or at least something like these, Asteroid Blues sticks out with a relatively skeletal sound reminiscent of dub reggae. Noises bounce off a rubbery funk groove, drums and bass keeping a brisk pace. It’s worth mentioning here that Bowie has assembled an array of instrumentalists to help with this album, and they all put in stellar performances.
If this whole record had reference tracks, one of them would undoubtedly be Radiohead’s Airbag. A few years before their full embrace of electronics, they took inspiration from DJ Shadow and made their drummer into a sample, creating a lo-fi feel coupled with technological tricks that are all over Heaven To A Tortured Mind. It is just one of the many avenues Bowie could have gone down, but the effect of what he has done is fascinating and wholly satisfying.