- Yves Tumor joins the likes of Arca and SOPHIE at the vanguard of experimental pop.
- I moved to Los Angeles just before 2012, midway through a mass arrival of young, creative types priced out of New York and San Francisco, or simply trying to escape the Midwest. I partied in old banks in Hollywood, caught weird experimental shows and techno DJs in warehouses, and saw Dean Blunt and James Ferraro improvise an impenetrable set of "cocktail jazz" to a none-the-wiser crowd of showbiz types at Soho House. Back then, I would often see Sean Bowie, then known as Teams, in these settings.
Tall and striking, he had a certain star power, but all I knew about him was that he made weird music and had something to do with seapunk. About five years later, Bowie would return to LA as Yves Tumor to headline a Red Bull-sponsored show at a warehouse by some disused railroad tracks. He stomped onto the stage bound by chains, intoning grimly over hissing noise and a stuttering, half-second CDJ loop in a performance that blurred the lines between fashion, experimental music and performance art.
So what happened? How did the LA scenester with yellow hair become an innovative figure in electronic music? Take a look through Bowie's discography and you'll notice his musical omnivorousness. As Teams, he made everything from lo-fi pop to footwork. As Yves Tumor, it's sometimes difficult to discern whether he's played or sampled his instruments. When he is borrowing, he's deftly chopping up a diverse set of records, from UK cult act Woo to haunting synth pop from a straight-to-VHS horror film. On his Warp Records debut, Safe In The Hands Of Love, Yves Tumor joins the ranks of Arca and SOPHIE at the millennial generation's pop vanguard, a group whose fluid approach to music and imagery is eradicating the gap between underground and mainstream.
When Bowie released the album's first single, "Noid," fans of his previous output scratched their heads. The breakbeat pop song, which samples Sylvia St. James for its soaring string lead, looks back to the halcyon days of Britpop and big beat, while the vocal sounds like something you might hear on US alternative rock radio in the late '90s. On the album, Bowie takes his time unveiling this bold new sound. The intro, "Faith In Nothing Except In Salvation," displays the resemblance between samples and original orchestration; the brash horn fanfare he's arranged sounds like it could have been lifted off a soul record. Bowie builds up the grinding thrum of the following track, "Economy Of Freedom," with the help of Croatian Amor, AKA Posh Isolation's Loke Rahbek. Throughout the LP, he works with a mix of experimental club figures (James K, Ohxy) and experimental musicians (Rahbek, Ferraro, Puce Mary) while skipping through a variety of styles. "Honesty" is a take on a bass-savvy vocal house, while "Hope In Suffering (Escaping Oblivion & Overcoming Powerlessness)" goes for teeth-gnashing dark ambient and ends up being the album's only clunker.
But what sets Safe In The Hands Of Love apart from 2016's Serpent Music is the emergence of Bowie as the frontman. The album's core—"Noid," "Licking An Orchid," "Lifetime" (featuring a proficient Ferraro on grand piano) and "Recognizing The Enemy"—are carried by his vocals and mixed like pop songs. He builds on SoundCloud rap's current flirtation with emo tropes and dives headfirst into the genre with pouting lines shot through with self-loathing ("You looked so different / You looked like somebody else... I look so different / Inside my own living hell.") Though Bowie's videos and press shots are hyper-stylized, these lyrics might have come from someone's LiveJournal. This adolescent relatability completes Safe In The Hands Of Love's avant/populist balancing act.
01. Faith In Nothing Except In Salvation
02. Economy Of Freedom
05. Licking An Orchid feat. James K
07. Hope in Suffering (Escaping Oblivion & Overcoming Powerlessness) feat. Oxhy, Puce Mary
08. Recognizing The Enemy
09. All The Love We Have Now
10. Let The Lioness In You Flow Freely