Yves Tumor Brings Intrigue and Mystery To Philly

Imagine sitting at the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool. If you’ve ever dove down with outstretched fingers trying to touch the bottom, you’re probably familiar with the trampling sensation caused by the tension of the water. Now imagine that feeling surrounding you. The water holding back for the moment, but threatening to crush your body—and you know it could. It keeps you in place until you simply can’t take it anymore. Urgency sets in as you make the decision to swim up to the surface before even moving a muscle. The air starts to leave your lungs as you flail your arms and legs. Time’s running out. You look up at the surface, and in that moment, you’ve never wanted anything more than to take a breath of fresh air. Relief, however, is short-lived as reaching the surface brings you face to face with Yves Tumor, one of the most enigmatic and intriguing musical talents of our time. Close enough to kiss, or bite, you make ecstatic eye contact before guitarist Chris Greatti plays another riff that sends shockwaves through your body and the surrounding water, and you’re swallowed once again.

This was the experience “Making Time Pure Halloween” Yves Tumor and Dave P. curated on the Friday before Halloween at Warehouse on Watts. It was my first time at the venue, which is tucked away off Girard and Broad. Bars of lights lined the room’s ceiling, stretching from one end to the other, and cycled through reds, purples and blues. During Tumor’s set, the space was packed with very little room to move, emulating the crushing sensation of water pressure. The set list was AirDropped to us, building collective anticipation. Fog filled the space, lit up by strobe lighting that made me question my own physiology. The feeling was furthered by the sweat and humidity—which immediately drenched my clothes—and the movement of the crowd which, like rolling waves, continuously destabilized me upon finding my stance, sending me tumbling over and under the bodies around me.

“Yves Tumor” by Passetti

Imagine sitting at the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool. If you’ve ever dove down with outstretched fingers trying to touch the bottom, you’re probably familiar with the trampling sensation caused by the tension of the water. Now imagine that feeling surrounding you. The water holding back for the moment, but threatening to crush your body—and you know it could. It keeps you in place until you simply can’t take it anymore. Urgency sets in as you make the decision to swim up to the surface before even moving a muscle. The air starts to leave your lungs as you flail your arms and legs. Time’s running out. You look up at the surface, and in that moment, you’ve never wanted anything more than to take a breath of fresh air. Relief, however, is short-lived as reaching the surface brings you face to face with Yves Tumor, one of the most enigmatic and intriguing musical talents of our time. Close enough to kiss, or bite, you make ecstatic eye contact before guitarist Chris Greatti plays another riff that sends shockwaves through your body and the surrounding water, and you’re swallowed once again.

Though an uncomfortable experience, I knew what I was getting into. Yves Tumor’s music has always questioned and pushed the limits of noise, melody and rhythm. Their most recent release, The Asymptotical World EP co-produced with Greatti, is an excellent follow-up to last year’s Heaven to a Tortured Mind. Both those works’ tracks benefit from Tumor’s inventive use of sound and beautifully destructive lyricism (“Carry me away into your spirit / I can’t live my own troubles / I’ve got nothing left to fear but the wilderness”). The EP’s singles, “Jackie” and “Crushed Velvet,” are perhaps Tumor’s most approachable songs yet, though both retain the metamorphic quality that has kept both fans and critics unable to define the music’s genre, direction, or even the singer’s desires.

This ambiguous tendency has worked in the artist’s favor. At the front of the crowd, I came within kissing distance of both Tumor and Greatti multiple times. Unlike Greatti, who seemed to thrive off the ebbing and flowing of the guitar throwing us into a frenzy of excitement and desire, I was constantly questioning what exactly Tumor wanted from me. At times, they leaned forward and interlocked fingers with the hands extending out of the mosh pit. I was able to make out the hard outlines of their bejeweled glove, custom made by New York designer CJ Aslan, milliseconds before they pulled away. The sight of them right above me referenced the cover of 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love, whose visual significance had admittedly escaped me until that moment. As if parodying a moment of holy rapture, they pulled away as I fell back into the crowd. This contradiction was most apparent during the performance of “Secrecy Is Incredibly Important to the Both of Them” from Asymptotical World. Bringing the crowd in close, Tumor begged to talk, to look each other in the eye, but then spurned us, asking bitterly, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?”

Yves Tumor’s music and performance are characterized by tension. The music turns in on itself, rearranges and becomes something entirely new. Its relationship with genre and melody are two of the most pronounced venues of interaction. Songs such as “…And Loyalty is a Nuisance Child” and “Noid” embrace noise as a way to destabilize experience; the drone of feedback resembled the guttural screams from the audience (some of which came from my own mouth). And just as the band appeared, they vanished into the cloud of smoke, leaving those of us in the crowd wondering how much of our experience was real, and how much was imagined.

Yves Tumor Live at the Warehouse on Watts

(Courtesy of Sudeep Bhargava)

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