Raw, surreal, multilayered tunes that draw inspiration from a time when grunge, shoegaze and electronica intermingled
While a full-scale revival movement has never broken through to the mainstream, every now and then a modern artist will find fertile ground in ’90s alt-rock, where grunge, shoegaze and electronica intermingle with many more subtle ingredients. Yes, the style was a little pretentious at times, and perhaps the artists’ politics have degraded, but it was real (damn it!) and on the verbosely titled and strangely punctuated Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) Yves Tumor has drawn inspiration from all those moody vocals, watery guitars and blown-out mixes to create their best album yet.
The thrashy hook of Meteora Blues, the angular riffing of God Is A Circle and the enigmatic lyrics of Heaven Surrounds Us Like A Hood (“sweet boy / you know you look just like your mother / wouldn’t know / another lost soul”) all sound like an artist who has found the perfect niche, as Yves’ textured, dynamic production accompanies the band this time rather than claiming the spotlight. Their vocal delivery is frequently a lower-pitched snarly tone, but Parody showcases a delicate falsetto as well as perhaps the most catty takedown since Pet Shop Boys’ How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?
As one might expect from an androgynous African-American rocker, references to Prince pop up now and again. Lovely Sewer’s juddering drum loop pays homage to I Would Die 4 U as Yves remonstrates with an old flame (“you’re still a friend of mine / we met on Chapman and Catalina / and you’re always so fly / but you could start a war just for the feeling”) while Operator is another Prince-flavoured burst of energy, as repetitive lyrics ring out over a driving bassline and spacey effects.
The album deviates from its dominant sounds on the effortlessly catchy Echolalia, with the thumping percussion and Neon-sampling bassline owing more to electronic music, and penultimate track Purified By The Fire is a flashback to the music Yves was making a few years ago. A woozy soul loop is complimented by an abrasive boom-bap groove for the song’s opening stretch, before a dramatic tempo shift which sees the sample cut up over lo-fi 4×4 beats. The metre is unconventional, with chords that cycle through a lopsided 3-bar sequence, the rather arrythmic foghorn synth which joins in makes for another disquieting element – the combination is oddly beguiling, and notable for being the record’s only instrumental number.
In Spite Of War wears some more punky influences on its sleeve, featuring some tasteful group vocals and an overdriven two-note guitar phrase, and Ebony Eye ends this album on a real high. The keyboard riff is so triumphant, the backbeat so meaty and the vocal melodies are so satisfying that if there were any justice in the world this song would enjoy the kind of virality granted to Steve Lacy’s Bad Habit last summer.
Fellow music reviewer David Drake recently pointed out that art which speaks to the present will come to be seen as innovative, more so than any specific sonic features, and this very much rings true with Yves Tumor’s third Warp-released album. The elements are at various points knowingly retro but the way they have been assembled is very much contemporary, whether it’s Parody’s sludgy coda or the sped-up drums of Fear Evil Like Fire. The increased connection of the internet is taking an already rich musical landscape towards its very own singularity, and when we get there it may sound a lot like Yves Tumor’s raw, surreal, multilayered tunes.