Review Summary: Just a little bit better than the others.
How I found Serpent Music
, the second full-length and breakout release from Miami enigma Yves Tumor, is irrelevant. What actually counts is the fact that I found it at all. The album is listed under genres such as sound collage, ambient, and field recordings on rateyourmusic.com. All three of those genres are linked by one descriptor: easy
. A so-called sound collage does not require so much composing as it does editing, as a producer can rip short samples from vinyl and arrange them into something that approximates the sum of its parts. Ambient used to be an intrinsically complex style of music in the era of analog music, though as of late, it is relatively easy to generate half an hour of an ambient piece in half of your lunch break. Field recordings are arguably the most undemanding of the trio, as the entire process of creation is in the name itself.
Many young producers have found themselves replicating these styles of organized sound into an abyss of utter familiarity, an area of culture that’s either so full of soundalikes or so devoid of a refreshing sound, it all becomes null. Thus it is so captivating, trying to fathom how Yves Tumor was able to excel above all of those people. No drastic changes had to be made, as Serpent Music
still bears many resemblances to that lo-fi aesthetic so many people attempt to replicate. The biggest difference is the amount of professional polish involved. At no point does the album sound improvised, made on nothing more than a whim. Things change at the right time, and when they occasionally refuse to change, it is justifiable.
One example is the song Seed
, which does little to alter itself over the seven-minute runtime. The noises that lather the muzak beat sizzle and crack and expose themselves, which does just about enough to maintain an intriguing sound. When it’s clear that a song won’t be able to remain interesting for so long, it ends quickly, and songs like Devout
and Role in Creation
are good showcases. Occasionally, Serpent Music
is unsettling, and it isn’t because Yves Tumor wanted to make you feel buried alive. Although that does happen on the track Broke In
. No, from time to time, this project becomes disquieting because a song will go on for a while without saying anything. That doesn’t require words, necessarily, but it requires a point. A point to the song, how it plays into songs around it, how I am supposed to feel during my listen. Yet I have no idea why the song Cherish
It consists of a nine-second loop that plays for three minutes alongside some stretched out moaning that will nonplus me to no end. It does seem that, on the surface, it takes the form of a smooth jam that could be played during sex, but it happens to take up the sounds that come from sex all on its own. It’s unclear what role the track has in the grand scheme of the album. Another instance of that is the entirety of Perdition
, the eight-minute outro. It is reminiscent of Black Dice’s very first album, and how six minutes of one piece was completely unaffected wave splashing. This is the same; a few minutes of lone waves, strings swell up and a remarkable choir does the same, and then we go back to the waves. It feels contained only within itself, and the track that precedes it feels like a fitting enough end to Serpent Music
. Why is this here?
At times, it does feel like the amount of work Yves Tumor went through in order to make Serpent Music
shine above its contemporaries just wasn't quite enough. It sounds great when the looping beats are entrancing enough to make the listener lose themselves, have a song or two on repeat while they work. When that does not happen, though, it is either just above commonplace or will fall into the trap of total pedestrian noise. It is not all bad, of course. Dajjal
, Face of A Demon
, and many other songs are wonderful specimens of Yves Tumor’s production capabilities. I just wish they would push themselves a little bit more.