It goes without saying that the global landscape is currently so peculiar, that it feels more like a fever dream than reality. Amongst the masses self-isolating, existentialist thinking drives both fear and hope and today I’m here to report on the album that could very well soundtrack this detached dystopia we currently find ourselves within.
Enter Sean Lee Bowie aka Yves Tumor, the enigmatic, elusive producer and artist who has a knack of manifesting soundscapes drenched in both dissonance and dreamy delights. Now I should point out that people aren’t even sure if Sean Lee Bowie is his actual birth name — for as with his sexuality — the androgynous artist merely hints at possibilities of the truth without ever fully revealing it, firmly upholding an unmistakable air of mysticism around him. A rather similar trend is also apparent with his musical catalogue which ranges from dark and disturbing, to blissfuly ambient under his multiple pseudonyms and artistic manifestations that include Bekelé Berhanu, Shanti and TEAMS. It is, however, under the Yves Tumor moniker that Bowie gives us the biggest look into his mind albeit a glimpse at best.
Although we may not know much of Bowie, it’s undeniable that his musical output as Yves Tumor has been incredibly captivating albeit not stylistically consistent. With two singles already released off of his upcoming record, Heaven to a Tortured Mind, it’s safe to say we’re in for another mind-bending mix of sounds on Bowie’s newest endeavour. I’d like to state right now that I wouldn’t take new singles “Gospel For A New Century” and “Kerosene” as sonic indicators of what the album in its entirety will sound like. For example “Licking An Orchid” could never have prepared us for what we would hear on 2018’s Safe In The Hands of Love. Simply put I would actually argue that the two singles released thus far may, in fact, be the most accessible cuts on the album which could be followed by a rather widespread sonic collage as was present on Yves Tumor records of the past.
As for the tracks themselves, I do feel like “Gospel For A New Century” makes for a far stronger single with its looped horn and drum sample that sound as if they come straight out of a Madlib or J Dilla catalogue before it all comes crashing down with a hypnotic, almost sexually charged bass lick. This subdued tone, however, doesn’t last long until we hear a crash of a cascading glam rock-esque guitar riff. As a comment I read beautifully worded it, “Gospel For A New Century” is sort of like if Prince was into Marilyn Manson. “Kerosene” on the other hand has this dreamy sultry almost indie instrumental that picks you up and mesmerises you along the way before it starts breaking down into a rather disorientating cut, complete with even more glamorous guitar riffs. Now let the record show that I in no way deem “Kerosene” to be a bad song— I just would have appreciated more vocally from Bowie, as the vocal performance on the single is somewhat bare-boned and laid back. To a point where it is almost lost in the myriad of the sonic snippets he throws your way throughout the track. Let me put it this way, I think it’s going to be a track that sounds much better when placed into the context of an album rather than being a standalone song.
As for Heaven to a Tortured Mind set to be released on the 3rd of April, your guess is as good as mine to what we may get. Will we see a return of the multitude of electronic influences present on his previous album, which included more techno, drone, ambient and IDM elements? Or is Bowie set on releasing a glam rock-inspired album with a more coherent sonic identity? Regardless of whether we get a musical kaleidoscope filled with unsettling experimental cuts to accompany the singles, or whether we are treated to a modern subversion of the sultry glam rock, the one thing that is certain is that whatever Bowie offers us as Yves Tumor; it won’t be subtle.