Yves Tumor began his career in the low-ceilinged world of experimental noise, but from the beginning, his yearning for bigger stages, sweeping statements, limitless horizons, was palpable. “I just want to make hits,” they said with a laugh in 2017. “What else would I want to do?” Since signing with Warp, Yves Tumor has risen so fast that at times it seemed as if his own music was competing to contain his ambitions. As 2018 is darkly sensual Safe in the hands of love gave way to the theatrics of the sex god of 2020 Heaven for a tortured mind, the only true constant was Tumor’s almost religious devotion to the possibilities of recording, to the careful placement of perfect sounds within the implicit space. For Tumor, the space of the headphones is a sacred space, a sanctuary in which all kinds of transfigurations are possible.
With Praise be to a Lord who chews but does not consume (or simply, warms between worlds), Tumor reaches a turning point in his arms race with his own talent and ambition. They have Noah Goldstein on board, a former engineer of Kanye’s who worked on My beautiful dark twisted fantasy, along with Alan Moulder, one of the most celebrated architects of guitar sounds in rock history. From the looks of it, they’re searching for an ecstatic fusion of alternative rock and R&B, searching for the mysterious nexus where heartbreak satisfies Purple Rain. Guitars roar with jet engine propulsion, threatening to consume everything in between, a clear trademark of shoegaze pioneer Moulder, while Tumor’s doubling vocals ring out in an unmistakable echo of Prince. In “Operator,” Tumor even lets out the painfully mute eros-yip, more feline than human, equally childish and adult, which was one of Prince’s auditory markers.
Countless bands have turned to Moulder over the decades, hoping that some of the comet trail dust from his famous shoegaze records will settle on their project. But only someone with an imagination as brilliant, generous and expansive as Tumor’s can touch Moulder and make a record like this. Purely in sensory terms, it’s hard to imagine many richer-sounding rock records being released this year.
Tumor treats sounds with such love that they are sometimes like a director framing and lighting a beloved actor, and each sound in Praise enters the mix with nearly visible input and output signals. The wall of guitar distortion that kicks in on “Meteora Blues” only lasts a few moments on each chorus, but it’s the most exhilarating evocation of the Smashing Pumpkins guitar sound ever to exist outside of melon collie either siamese dream. Once you hear it, you spend the rest of the song longing for it to come back. The same goes for the synths that gush out at the last minute of “Echolalia,” so dimensional and detailed it feels like you could reach out and run your fingers through them like mist. It is a testament to Tumor’s loving touch that none of these gestures feels empty or formal: each resonates with the fullness, in some way, of a life lived.