Navigating The Many Styles Of Yves Tumor
Recommending Yves Tumor to a friend isn’t easy. In the last several years, the Tennessee-born artist has explored the most extreme sides of music: droning ambient, field recordings, harsh noise, sampled loops, hip-hop, and, most recently, pop. How do you sum that up into an elevator pitch? Maybe that’s part of the allure.
What separates Yves Tumor from the plethora of other artists who move from style to style is that no matter if he’s remixing a track for the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto or creating a three-part noise suite for Mykki Blanco, his execution is flawless. From year to year, and sometimes from track to track, Tumor dramatically switches up his sound. He has the dangerous ability to produce a club track that can effortlessly transform into a brutal burst of noise.
Last week, without warning, Warp Records released Tumor’s latest album, Safe In The Hands Of Love. While most longtime fans of the artist were expecting a plunderphonics masterpiece or another witchy club album, they instead got a dark and melodic pop record that has elements of Britpop and big beat.
With a new record comes new fans. Unfortunately for them, Tumor’s backlog is spread out throughout the internet in the form of compilation album cuts, mixtapes that are only available on select streaming platforms, a remix album, and three full-lengths. In an effort to highlight Tumor’s body of work, I present a list of tracks that showcases the many musical styles of Yves Tumor.
“Histrionic I-III” (from Mykki Blanco Presents C-ORE, 2015)
In the early years under the Yves Tumor name (he likes to keep his personal name a secret), the artist ran with hip-hop artist Mykki Blanco and his Dogfood Music Group. In 2015, the group dropped Mykki Blanco Presents C-ORE, a no-holds-barred record full of noisy, politically charged songs. Of the four tracks that Tumor contributed, three are part of the multi-song suite titled “Histrionic.” It’s in these tracks that Tumor explores a combination of distorted marching band drums and traditional noise techniques. Low, hazy subs rattle throughout the each of the parts while high pitches tear and morph into ever-changing, unwelcoming structures. In the final movement, Tumor adds sirens and industrial field-recordings into the mix, something that would become a staple on his future releases.
“Devout” (from Serpent Music, 2016)
Serpent Music, Tumor’s 2016 debut for Bill Kouligas’ record label, PAN, is an opus full of unsettling cuts loosely held together by muddy bass grooves and tribal percussion. “Devout” the album’s introduction, foreshadows what’s to come later in the record. A dreamy guitar lick loops over a hypnotizing hi-hat pattern at a sleepy pulse for a little over a minute. It’s ghostly, abruptly disappearing just after it appears. These short, looped tracks are a staple of Tumor. In just over a minute, he’s able to lodge an eerie melody into the listener’s brain that will resurface often.
“Broke In” (Feat. Oxhy) (from Serpent Music, 2016)
On “Broke In,” one of the most aggressive tracks from Serpent Music, Tumor enlists Oxhy (who would later appear on Safe In The Hands Of Love) for an industrial club cut. Not as distorted as “Histrionic,” “Broke In” embodies PAN’s signature experimental dance style. Loud lo-fi drums echo throughout the mix while whispery vocals try to fight their way through the noise. Tumor ditches the catchy melodies traditionally found in club music, instead opting to focus on the primitive and dangerous side of urban music. “Broke In” pushes the listener around, forcing them to move.
“Limerence” (from Mono No Aware, 2017)
Originally landing on the 2016 release When Man Fails You, “Limerence” sounds more at home in its place on PAN’s haunting compilation Mono No Aware. Similar to “Devout,” a light, cerebral groove holds the track together. Here, though, Tumor shows off his unparalleled ability to string together light conversations into something with weight. Over the spectral beat, a series of grainy recordings of a woman trying to get to her significant other’s attention plays. Yves subtly brings a thunderstorm into the mix that builds in intensity and brings the track to its climax: “I’m gonna put all these videos together, all of them that we made,” the unknown woman gently says. “As we get older and older and older we can have a bunch of videos.”
“E. Eternal” (from Experiencing The Deposit Of Faith, 2017)
Experiencing The Deposit Of Faith was self-released in 2017, just days before Tumor announced that he would be joining Warp Records. The record is a haunting blend of soul, ambient, and heavily sampled works that bleed together into a hypnagogic whole. Nestled near the beginning of the record is “E.Eternal,” a track that may reference Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in name but mainly comprises a slowed down, pitch-shifted sample of “It’s Love” by the new age duo Woo. Like “Devout,” the piece grooves gently and goes nowhere, left to fizzle out into silence. The result is a hypnotic instrumental piece void of the optimistic intentions that the sampled riff originally aimed to provoke.
“Zure (Yves Tumor Obsession Edit)” (from async remodels, 2018)
Ryuichi Sakamoto, a Grammy-winning film score composer and the legendary keyboardist of Yellow Magic Orchestra, released async in 2017. To celebrate the release, electronic vanguards like Oneohtrix Point Never, alva noto, Fennesz, Arca, Andy Stott, and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson teamed up for a compilation remix album of record. Tumor was personally tapped for the project by Sakamoto and chose to rework the track “Zure,” a meditative piece built mostly from a single synthesizer that repeats a slow pulsing chord. Utilizing a neo-noir-sounding saxophone and an undemanding drum beat, Yves turns the track on its head. “I would much rather the piece of music spoke for itself, but I will mention it was truly a life-fulfilling honor to work on, or in a way with, Ryuichi on this project,” he told The Fader after the release.
“Noid” (from Safe In The Hands Of Love, 2018)
Tumor’s longtime fans were met with a shocking 180-degree turn when “Noid,” the first single from Safe In The Hands Of Love, was released: One of the world’s most adventurous and disorienting producers had released a pop-rock song. A driving drumbeat kicks off the track, quickly followed by Yves’ voice, this time up front and unedited. Unlike the usual songs void of structure, “Noid” binds itself to the standard verse/chorus format. What it lacks in experimental instrumentation, it makes up for in its dark lyrics. “They call it a sickness, PTSD, depression,” Tumor sings. “Safe in the hands of love.” After a career of pushing himself to the farthest outskirts of musical styles, it’s the tamest music that sounds most foreign and groundbreaking for Tumor.