Could this be the future of pop music?
Following his critically-acclaimed sophomore album, Sean Bowie, under the name Yves Tumor, returns with a futuristic, wildly psychedelic album, dubbed Heaven to a Tortured Mind.
Collectively, the album is a 36-minute long journey through twelve tracks that fuse experimental elements of pop, soul, neo-psychedelia, and R&B. As Bowie’s earlier work drew predominantly from electronic and experimental influences, his newer sounds feature more singing, guitar, drums, and horns.
Throughout the project, Bowie establishes an atmosphere that is as equally spacious and dreamy as it is dramatic and groovy. Static and distortion crack like an experimental whip within the midst of a spacious, psychedelic ambience, coalescing to produce a sustained sound teetering somewhere between harsh and beautiful.
One of the strongest album openers of the year, “Gospel For A New Country” kicks off the project with what sounds like a hip-hop beat, utilizing loud horns and a heavy bassline, whose sound is almost like something produced by Madlib. There is no rapping here, however, as Sean Bowie elegantly sings over a cacophony of tight drums, blown-out horns, and roaring guitar. As the beat continuously loops, it grows into a rumbling, warped monster of noise—a masterfully crafted sensory overload.
Distortion continues to reign as a main focus in “Medicine Burn” as stretched, aggressive guitar rifts accompany Bowie’s impressive vocal range. Heavy synthesizers work to create a grainy, tense feel as violent chords pierce the tense soundscape. A multi-instrumentalist, Bowie even incorporates light keyboard to fill in spaced-out areas where screaming guitar is not dominating the foreground.
“Identity Trade” follows in suit with loud, groovy guitar and blown-out horns. Most impressive on this track are the drums, which beat effortlessly in-line with the funky bassline. Originally released as a single, “Kerosene!” is an extraordinary rock duet featuring a larger-than-life vocal performance from Diana Gordon. As the two switch off boasting dramatic, soaring vocal solos, light synths eventually explode into a wild, intoxicating guitar solo that could come from a 70’s rock track. Undoubtedly a highlight on the record, through this piece, Bowie showcases his intent toward genre-blending, along with a distinct and dynamic knowledge of the instruments he plays.
Less intense, “Hasdallen Lights” sounds like a modern take on soul music. Vocals shift from shattering with intensity to a quieter, softer harmony, all atop a warped loop of a violin. Maintaining a similar sound, “Romanticist” is an impressive, experimental blend of R&B, pop, and soul. As the track escalates into a barrage of drums and sound effects, it fades into “Dream Palette”, a hectic song that reintroduces Gordon’s singing along with synth leads and swirling static.
Another highlight on the record, “Super Stars” reinforces the smooth, intimate theme retained throughout the album. Bowie’s lush vocals work with a hypnotic funk beat to produce an incredibly catchy, seductive atmosphere. Bits of jarring electric guitar are spiked throughout the track like an electric shock treatment—the song is every part smooth as it is unnerving.
Heaven To A Tortured Mind’s music videos reinforce the smooth, dramatic theme that remains consistent throughout the project; dark colors mix with intense, provocative visuals to aid the intended mood of the record.[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-9QCsH3OQM[/embedyt]
Bowie closes the album with some spacey tracks, as “Folie Imposee” and “Strawberry Privilege” both feature minimalistic, droned vocals over some dreary synths. “Asteroid Blues” is the only song from the album that lacks any words at all, sticking to a slick bass-line while also being subject to some experimental crashes added throughout the track. “Greater Love” ends the album on a highly romantic, intimate note. Decorated with short guitar performances across the track, Bowie’s vocals are complemented by Clara Le San. Dramatic synths and a whispered duet from the two work with Prince-esque guitar licks to leave the listener with a lasting impression of what the future of pop might sound like.
This album is about the closest thing Yves Tumor has gotten to pop, but not without his added influences of psychedelia and experimentalism. Heaven To A Tortured Mind is a truly exciting release and one I can see pop artists pulling from for inspiration and creativity in the future.
Yves Tumor is also featured on one of KCPR’s carefully curated Spotify playlists, Moon. Give Moon a listen if you’d like to hear more of Yves and sway your hips to other luminescent tunes.
Robbie Baker is a Cal Poly English freshman and a KCPR staff member. Image credit to Yves Tumor.