Review: Yves Tumor cheekily preaches for religious fluidity

The artist’s newest album, “Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)” is rich in visual aesthetic and political argument. 


Vedang Lambe

(Illustration by Vedang Lambe)

Sandy Battulga, Music Editor

In “Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds),” Yves Tumor overtly and subtly pokes fun at the rigidity of Christianity, arguing for a more flexible lens through which to look at the world. Tumor, who got their start in the electronic music scene, has veered into glam-rock territory with their past few albums.

Born in Miami and raised in Knoxville, TN, Tumor has been called a “contemporary rockstar,” and the label suits their real name — Sean Bowie. Much like the other famous Bowie, Tumor leans into the subversive and extravagant legacy of rock music. Tumor adorns themself in leather jackets, studded belts and an air of sensuality in both their live performances and music videos.

In an interview with Dazed Magazine, Tumor said they started making music to get away from the “very conservative, racist, homophobic, sexist environment” they were raised in. Religion, a major facet of their conservative upbringing, is a theme that thrums throughout much of Tumor’s work. Many of their song titles allude to biblical themes, such as past releases “Gospel for a New Century” and “Faith in Nothing Except Salvation.” In the Dazed Magazine interview, Tumor said they think “religion is super-toxic,” but added that “spirituality can be important to keeping yourself balanced.”

“God is a Circle” is the first track on the album, and it begins with a screech. Rhythmic and heavy breathing fashions the beat around which the song’s main melody is constructed. Electronic barks and glaring electronic guitar notes punctuate the opener.

The lyrics of “God is a Circle” speak to emotions that are ordinary and very human, communicating a universal loneliness and desire for love. In the chorus, Tumor sings: “Knowing you / You might hurt someone / Or yourself / You would tear / Everything apart / If you found out / Everyone you loved loved someone else.” Pairing these lyrics with images of monsters and exaggerated Christian iconography in the track’s video, Tumor questions the monsterization of certain bodies that occurs under conservative religious views. Historically, queer, Black, and gender non-conforming bodies have all been condemned as abnormal states of being, but “God is a Circle” points to the fact that even so-called monsters feel the same as everyone else.

Tumor’s centering of the body — writhing bodies, contorting bodies and bodies that collide — makes one of the most pressing preoccupations in their work, the questioning of why some bodies are deemed more normal than others, clear. They blatantly, and perhaps uncomfortably, parade the physical human body, maintaining a focus on accepting those who have been ostracized for how they present themselves — whether it be at the hands of religious expectations, or societal norms.

“Echolalia” is one of the stand-out tracks from the album. A synth melody introduces the song, and Tumor seamlessly enters the song with a “Mm-mm, mm-mm, mm-mm, mm, mm.” The airiness of their voice and the rumble of the bass guitar gives the track a heart-palpitating, addicting sensuality. 

Tumor expertly, but nonchalantly, applies this non-essentialist approach to their music creation process as well.

“I’m not intentionally trying to change my sound as a strategy, it’s not something that I’m doing forcefully,” Tumor said in an interview with Flaunt Magazine. “As soon as I’m done with the record, and I have that sound embodied in that physical form, I just don’t want to ever revisit it.”

The spontaneity guiding Tumor’s approach to music-making is on full display throughout their latest album’s genre bricolage. “Meteora Blues” has a pop-punk influence with its radio-ready, approachable take on punk rock. “Fear Evil Like Fire” is a more delicate track, with backing vocals that sound like gospel, and lyrics that trigger memories of good times spent with special people. “Purified By the Fire” reveals Tumor’s electronic music roots, beginning with a Motown-esque sample that transforms into a collection of drone tones, digital beats and overexposed drum hits. The album melds the genres of rock, psychedelia, pop, soul and experimental electronic, creating a record that is effortlessly multi-faceted and original. 

It’s never obvious where Tumor will go. The future of their sound, their personal life and their beliefs can usually only be gleaned by piecing together scattered rumors. What is known, however, is that whatever they create next will undoubtedly be sonically innovative and visually vibrant.

Contact Sandy Battulga at [email protected].