Italy-based artist Sean Bowie, more famously known as Yves Tumor, released his new album “Safe in the Hands of Love” to Warp Records Sept. 5, demonstrating his ability to unravel everything that we consider to be “experimental music.”
It is important to know that Yves Tumor remains a reticent figure — there are few interviews, pictures or articles on his personal life or identity. The only video of him that most listeners are familiar with is footage of him wailing, splayed out on a pile of dirt at a fashion show. Yves’ new album again puts aside personal identity for artistic expression.
“Safe in the Hands of Love” is an album that recalls a lot of things: artists like Ariel Pink, Arca, Sunn O))), Jodeci, Morrissey; a diary; and the feeling of being trapped in an alternate dimension. What is so captivating about Yves Tumor’s new album is that it perhaps intends to evoke a multiplicity of aesthetics. It challenges our definitions of experimental music by suggesting that it doesn’t have to be so unfamiliar. It shouldn’t be categorized into a binary either/or (sorry, Elliott Smith); rather, it should be experienced.
Yves’ new album is as enchanting as it is haunting — it equally revels in both the oddly catchy lyrics of tracks like “Noid” and the abrasive, expansive rush of noises in “Licking an Orchid.” Yves Tumor shows himself to be a musician that can beguile us with auditory forms of anxiety and melancholy while simultaneously calling upon feelings of longing and anticipation. And this duality in composition and emotion is meant to tell us something.
Throughout the album, Yves Tumor maintains an undercurrent of intensity, both emotionally and musically. The ’90s-esque, running back-beat and stringed instrumentals of “Noid” are redefined by Yves’ dark, anxious lyrics: “Sister, mother, brother, father / Have you, have you looked outside? / I’m scared for my life / They don’t trust us / I’m not part of the killing spree / A symptom, born loser, statistic.” This line is repeated, and the surprisingly accessible vocals (more palpable than those exhibited in previous albums) threaten a regular Yves fan’s drawn distance between mainstream elements and experimentation. The ironic simplicity of some tracks’ moments doubled with interludes of searing, noisy complexity invites us to reconsider what we call Yves Tumor. Yes, Yves delves into plunderphonics, noise music and post-industrial sounds, but should we be so eager to pigeonhole “Safe in the Hands of Love” as “experimental” and subsequently conflate “experimental” with “good”?
“Safe in the Hands of Love” composes a phantasmagoria of sound and lyrics at once familiar and unfamiliar. Yves Tumor condenses a myriad of tones and sounds into one album and forces us to listen from another angle. It suggests that maybe all artists should foray into the realm of “experimental,” or perhaps, it hints that the audience should all dive into an experimental sort of listening. The album can have the label of “experimental” taped onto it, but by subversively darting between different genres of sounds and noises, Yves Tumor refuses to be pinned down to one type of narrative, audience and crux.
“Safe in the Hands of Love” urges listeners to consider what it means to listen to music. It’s easy to categorize certain genres with certain people: “Beach Goth” with jumpsuit-clad art kids with literal clown makeup, Canterbury scene with millennial-aged men and plunderphonics with crate-digging, list-obsessed “Rate Your Music” users. Yves acknowledges this, and his album tears up its label, insisting that we instead take his narrative of sound for what it is: music.