A scream turns to heavy breathing, those breaths give way to bass and drums, and logic dissolves into glorious chaos on the opening track of Yves Tumor’s new album, Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds).
That lengthy title offers a taste of Tumor’s sense of humor, as well as a hint at their ambitions, which, like Matryoshka dolls, come nested one inside the other. Take the first song, “God Is a Circle,” which begins with the lyrics, “Sometimes, it feels like there’s places in my mind that I can’t go.” The sentiment seems to have multiple meanings: a thesis statement and personal challenge, a meditation on limits and a determination to break through them.
Along the way, Tumor sings of feeling “like a ghost inside a well,” ponders how to process learning that “everyone you love loves someone else,” and repeats the phrase, “Same old dance.” What you won’t hear in “God Is a Circle” is the word, “Circle,” though you can find God in Momma’s words and perhaps, if you listen closely, in the space between breaths.
“Everything around us feels unclean,” Tumor muses, “My Momma said, ‘God sees everything.’” Apart from this glimpse of an untidy deity, we are left to wrestle ourselves with how “God Is a Circle,” even as Tumor wrestles with relationships and pain. Perhaps that closed loop comes in the irresistible call and response of, “Same old dance,” which caps off the song and collapses a track’s worth of exploration and hurt into a clean, vicious cycle.
Tumor’s fourth album, produced by Noah Goldstein with Alan Moulder’s mix, maintains the adventurous spirit that energized their 2016 debut, When Man Fails You. But the sonic touchstones are now galaxies away. After that experimental introduction, Tumor released the pop-inflected Safe in the Hands of Love in 2017, and for 2020’s masterful Heaven to a Tortured Mind, they layered on full-throated psychedelic rock. 2021’s The Asymptotic World EP leaned further into those sounds, and now comes Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume with a different kind of first — the first consolidation of a sound. Instead of a whole new direction, it takes the more rocking moments of Heaven and Asymptotic World and mines them for fresh complexity, like a leaf under a microscope revealing boggling systems of fractals. Four albums in they’ve tried just about everything once, and on their latest album, they relish the things they do better than anyone else.
That includes a near-endless capacity for beauty and the perverse desire to interrupt it. “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood” opens with ripping guitar riff, which is almost instantly cut off by a young boy saying, “Well if you die, it’s ok, you can just restart.” In context it’s funny and deeply unsettling, a reminder of both death and all the pursuits (like video games) that we use to distract ourselves from that inevitability.