Underground producer Yves Tumor made a splash in the Experimental Ambient scene last year with his stomach-churning horror LP Serpent Music for PAN records—an impressive feat not only considering his Knoxville, Tennessee-origins, but also because of the sheer genre-transcending audacity of that record. It left listeners and critics in captive awe, thinking: “where the hell did this guy come from, and how was he able to so immediately master so many kinds of electronic production?” The album effortlessly moves between Vaporwave to Dark Ambient to Industrial to Musique Concrete, all without batting an eye. Since then, he has contributed a track, “Limerence”, to the brilliant PAN compilation Mono No Aware, signed to Warp Records, and now released Experiencing the Deposit of Faith, a “compilation” of mostly unreleased tracks to Soundcloud. Whether the compilation is intended for further release on Warp remains unclear, but musically, it signals a further departure from the sound of Serpent Music in line with the chilly ambience of “Limerence”—percussion doesn’t enter until a minute into track 4. That said, Yves Tumor’s penchant for juxtaposed transitions and heterotopic spatial exploration, as first intimated on Serpent Music, continues to break new ground for the possibilities of electronic music. Overall, Experiencing the Deposit of Faith is a logical next step in Yves Tumor’s catalogue—it pulls no punches, but the producer’s subtle brilliance pervades nonetheless, making for a satisfying release to tie fans over to his next full LP.
The compilations first three tracks stand out as some of Yves Tumor’s most minimal ambient work. The opener “Synecdoche” takes it time to develop, with icy bells and washing white noise gradually creeping in over the course of a minute. As it gains momentum, digital grain and clipping start to diminish its mysterious beauty until eventually the whole track quietly overloads. It’s a Glitchbient technique originally pioneered by Tim Hecker, but the digital lo-fi employed here gives the track a curiously harsh edge. The track finishes by returning to the bell loop to mirror its intro. The short second track, “Ayxita, Wake Up” has only two parts: a grainy, cut-up piano loop, which has to be a Steve Reich sample, and a singing woman’s voice, which fades in about halfway through the track with a sirenic R&B cadence. “E. Eternal” moves around an arpeggiating lo-fi guitar guitar loop à la early Bibio. Eventually a highly reverb-processed sample—which sounds like a high school American football game, with its cheering, whistles, and air cannons—fades in, and then this is overlaid with a sampled men’s church choir singing a hymn in what sounds like Latin. This is Yves Tumor at his best, and this is what I mean by “heterotopic spatial exploration” above: in this track we have a bucolic scene evoked by the folk guitar, which is contrasted with the football game—a typically rowdy event here softened by its artificial reverb processing, which gives it a solemn air not too unlike the cheering sample at the end of “Fearless” by Pink Floyd. This collides with another traditionally solemn space—a cathedral. Thus the listener must travel through three totally different musical spaces that have been artfully recontextualized, so none of the three sound out of place. It’s a beautiful synthesis, and one of Yves Tumor’s key ambient insights: his music can make impossible spatial juxtapositions seem like real, tangible spaces. His knack for world-building continues to be nonpareil in today’s electronic music.
These three very different ambient tracks all anticipate “My Nose My Lips Your Head Shape”, the fourth track, which begins with a 45-second-long sample of a woman describing her child’s hereditary characteristics before the compilation’s first rhythm second enters—a Trap-py Industrial percussion loop. In any kind of music (besides maybe drone), waiting 10-minutes to introduce drums is a risky move, something I’ve only heard executed effectively on Andy Stott’s Faith in Strangers, which opens with a six-and-a-half long drone track followed by “Violence”, whose percussion doesn’t drop until two-and-a half minutes in. On that record, the effect is used to build and release tension. For Yves Tumor, the question of tension never arises because of any building continuity—if anything discontinuity causes Experiencing the Deposit of Faith’s tension. On “My Nose My Lips Your Shape”, the sheer flippancy with which Yves Tumor can discard the album’s status as beatless ambient music and fade in a drum loop gives the listener the sense of a more continuous tension—one is left thinking: “if this isn’t a soothing, comfortable ambient compilation, what is it? Can I trust this music?” To the record’s credit, the former question is difficult to answer, and the answer to the latter question is a clear, definite no.
Over the record’s remaining eight tracks, Yves Tumor jumps from Actress-esque slight techno on “AfricaAshes” to Soft Rock looping on “Anya’s Loop” to Lounge on “Paigon Hunting” to a Vaporwave-Drum ‘n’ Bass crossover on “Conflict of Interest”. “Prosperity Awareness” acts as another excellent spatial exploration, placing a sample of a haunting fireworks show (no cheering this time, just fireworks) under a wistful, yearning saxophone. Closer “Love is the Law” returns to ambient territory, with a confusedly meandering piano loop set in a sonic space most similar to Wayland Kirby’s work as The Caretaker.
Admittedly, some of the material here sounds like a retread of some of Yves Tumor’s Serpent Music work in a slightly different mood, but certainly the difference between his previous horror-soundtrack music and this somber ambience is interesting enough to justify Experiencing the Deposit of Faith’s existence. That said, its lack of new ideas clearly marks it more as a well-sequenced outtakes compilation than a proper follow-up album.