Yves Tumor has been primed for a big release for a while. Safe In The Hands Of Love is just that release. It’s an explosion of energy, curls of color transmitted through intoxicating percussion loops, heartrending soul ballads, and blaring noise, structured within his most accessible and conceptual exoskeleton yet.
The Warp Records affiliate is known for his experimental style. His last couple releases, Experience The Deposit Of Faith (2017) and Serpent Music (2016) were pan-genre collages that drew from elements of ambient, hip hop, pop, soul, psychedelic, and noise music. While Safe does follow that trend to an extent, each track is more purposeful: the album is an exploration of human-as-concept, stripping identity down to its most basic attributes, love and loss.
The instrumental tracks are among his best ever. “Faith In Nothing Except In Salvation” opens the album with what feels like a person ripping the soul out of themselves. It’s nothing but a funk loop, time-slowed and layered with a long decay that provides a torturous, crawling intensity. “Economy of Freedom” is ethereal, an ambient glitch beat supported by echoing vocal chops and slow effect splices. It sounds like what it would feel like to wander around an alien dimension, everything around you inherently threatening yet intriguing.
Yves Tumor’s biggest progression is not with the instrumentals but with the tracks that introduce vocals. Safe is his first project grounded in his own voice, and he uses it in a myriad of interesting ways to add levels of depth to songs.
“Hope In Suffering (Escaping Oblivion & Overcoming Powerlessness)” combines static noise patterns with eerie percussion loops and gunshot pitter-patter to create an atmosphere of absolute depravity. The instrumental is coupled by a poetry performance that further rattles, a voice chanting into the void for any ounce of humanity it can find: “Castrate my skin / Breathe my former thunder that rules the day / Bring that tide in and rule from his grave / And rule that image / Scrape that image”. The track is especially unnerving because of the way Tumor controls his voice. The poetry is delivered in a robotic pitch, which makes me think that despite all the human pretensions, his powerful cries about achieving selfhood are only an illusion.
Similarly vulnerable, “Recognizing the Enemy” features Tumor pleading to his own soul with lines like “I look so different / Inside my own living hell / It means so much to me / When I can’t recognize myself”. Tumor’s words lay his id bare, and as he howls into the abyss it feels so much like we’re there with him, either as a participant or an onlooker. His voice drips with zombie-like longing, a too far gone salivation for identity and humanity, like if Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver was self-conscious.
Alongside his most emotionally conflicted tracks to date are also his most enthusiastically euphoric. Songs like “Noid” and “All The Love We Have Now” are beautiful, pop-inflected thrill rides. The former features beautiful synthlines that undulate between Tumor’s fantastic vocal delivery. It’s a song that, while still emotionally conflicted - “I’m not part of the killing spree / A symptom, born loser, statistic” - rings with absolute power, a declaration of confusion that is overwhelmingly ecstatic. On “All The Love”, Tumor whispers about love over a similarly jubilant dance beat. Both tracks feel immensely nostalgic, Tumor’s expressive vocals and 80s synthpop production combining to create this wonderful aged atmosphere, full of longing for the past and the want to surround yourself with people you love.
One great track that doesn’t fit neatly into any box is “Licking An Orchid”, which really shows Tumor coming into his own. He meshes indie rock vibes with catchy lyrics and, in a fantastic second half turn, a short segment of beautiful melodic noise. It’s tracks like these that signify just how far Tumor has come since his previous LPs. “Licking” exhibits his ability to harmonize all these disparate genres into one composite piece that radiates with honest, emotional exuberance.
I hope Safe garners Yves Tumor some much deserved acclaim, because it’s definitely one of the most exciting albums released this year. It’s rare to find a soundtrack that can make you so ecstatic about feeling sad.
Safe In The Hands Of Love is the type of album that makes you yearn for more and more and more. It’s a wildly enjoyable journey that is at once meditative and not only redolent of the past but of the present, a space where our dreams and nightmares can fuse into one euphoric fantasy.
TOP: “Faith In Nothing Except In Salvation”, “Economy Of Freedom”, “Noid”, “Licking An Orchid”, “All The Love We Have Now”
BOTTOM: "Let The Lioness In You Flow Freely"