Published Apr 01, 2020The barriers between real life and science fiction, between tangibility and abstraction, have rarely felt more frail. There's a disorienting sense of limbo to life in 2020, the impression that some strange alternate universe is settling itself over our own, shifting our course at unprecedented speeds. What do we do in the face of such a rapidly collapsing reality? How do we move through?
Yves Tumor's massive Heaven to a Tortured Mind may hold the answers; It's the first piece of art that feels truly reflective of our communal isolation at the edge of the world. Tumor is a liquid distortion of the pop star, a swamp thing from the American South who's conjured an apocalyptic pop masterwork unconcerned with the apocalypse. It gathers all the chaos of the outside world into the palace of the human heart and demolishes it from within.
Heaven to a Tortured Mind is in conversation with blues, funk and R&B more than 2018's Safe in the Hands of Love — it's a more direct corruption of the popular form, grooving and swaying as often as it rages. It's the sound of all of pop history cast into the void of space and sent careening back, transmuted by some unknown force. The ghosts of lost icons hurtle through these songs — passing by in molecular form are the sparkling ethers of Prince and Bowie, the curdled spectre of Genesis P-orridge.
The scalding devotional "Kerosene!" is Tumor knocking on the doors of epic rock ballads past, while the diaphanous "Strawberry Privilege" is a delicate tangle of texture and feeling. There are flashes of strange mortality scattered throughout the record, from the soda can slurp that introduces "Romanticist" to the clumsy drumbeat that dangles before the monstrous "Medicine Burn." This music is the echo in the uncanny valley, so strange and thrilling precisely for its mutated human core.
It's in the tectonic shifts of "Folie Imposée" that Heaven to a Tortured Mind transcends. Named for the shared psychosis between a dominant inducer and their subordinate, its shattered cadence makes more sense the further it strays from reality. It's the sound of a new kind of warped pop star — an artist capable of weaving the unending unknown of space and the throb of blood and skin, willing to take us and destroy us and create something wholly new from what remains. (Warp)