Yves Tumor – Perfectly unpredictable (live report)

April 2 2018, af passive/aggressive Yves Tumor Mayhem 10

Yves Tumor, Khalil, Scandinavian Star and Soho Rezanejad hosted by Lowlife Scum and Knife Magazine at Mayhem 23.3.2018. Review and all photos by Cameron Pagett.

“Don’t fuck with my shield! Don’t fuck with my shield! …”

It’s the fourth and final set on a crowded Mayhem night and the headliner Yves Tumor has broken or rather, ripped his way through his plastic cage which had separated him from the audience for much of the first portion of his set. The music, or rather the drilling, cerebral, sordid symphony of siren like noise complete with jackhammering, invasive vocals called from the fog for a sense of security. Young men scurried from the imaginary room once partitioned by painter’s plastic which still adorned the majority of empty wallspace in the room.

“Don’t fuck with my shield! Don’t fuck with my shield!” Cries for respect in the midst of full body assault sound filled the space momentarily. Yves stares into a young woman’s eyes standing beyond the table with his controls resting on it. Stares into her eyes possessed with the same madness jolting from the speakers. This is aggressive. Engage or leave.


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I arrived at Mayhem on the back of a full Posh Isolation night in Oslo with Croatian Amor and The Empire Line, one hour of sleep and an 8 hour bus trip before staggering back into Copenhagen. My ears still ringing. I can barely stand, my eyes are heavy as bricks but it doesn’t matter, Knife (Magazine) is taking over Copenhagen’s favorite DIY temple. Dim artificial lighting bounces of the walls and reflects from an odd web of painter’s plastic lining nearly every visible inch of free white wall giving the epic space a cozy, spacey and completely artificial feel. It’s still 30 minutes from the start of the show and the room is already near capacity. A big name is here alongside an already loaded local line-up and soon people will be getting turned away and elbow room will be sparse. Before that happens I survey the room and marvel at a centrally placed plastic cube isolating itself akin to a holy alter. Knife founders Magnus Hjortlund and Jonathan Holst Bruus greet me and I am informed that this plastic, lightly transluscent cube is where Tumor will perform from. Ever the gentlemen, they offer all guests a drink and a caffeine supplement, it’s becoming clear I will need my legs tonight.

It’s a strange confluence of onlookers for the show hosted by CPH based Knife and Berlin-based collective Lowlife Scum. Along with the many familiar faces dotting the room are just as many visitors and first timers. There is a name tonight, a name with international prominence and a full cloud of publicity and acclaim. People are curious, it’s a night to try new things, and the energy is inquisitive and raw. It’s a perfect setting for exploring. The night is designed to surprise and enchant. The Knife people have a habit of offering an engaging mix of local and international talent, and I felt that what was about to transpire had the potential to be a night of wonderfully explorative music.

Lights go down and only a blue spotlight and a small hue of warm light from the controls give visible signs of life as conversations turn to murmurs at the start of a performance from Scandinavian Star. Fresh from an outing with Posh Isolation at Berghain, the experimental solo project headed by Copenhagen musician and mastering engineer Malthe Fischer began the night. Relying on a decidedly cool and aquatic base, the set gave a satisfying taste of his signature sound with plenty of new material to tease the more familiar listener with predictions of what to look forward to. With a base as smooth as marble reverberating from an iron hull Fischer kissed the room with a considerate and well-developed ambiance. Uniformly expansive, even dancy at times, the music performed felt reliant on the individual. Intimate and cozy, yet isolating the room moved and contemplated while remaining attached to an internalized energy on a moving score.

Continuing the evening with an introspective dive into the deep, Soho Rezanejad led a now very full room on a journey of visual, audible and immersive art. Positioning herself behind her laptop and assisted live by percussionist Anton Rothstein, the duo collaborated on a mesmerizing ambient score with sparse and haunting Viola-sections (courtesy of Astrid Sonne) and looping, twisting metallic elements with intermissive springs of psychedelic inspired sound wanderings. Situated near the front, I was able to view most of the experimental art film created for the score which most of the audience stay fixated on throughout the duration of the performance

Created for Rezanejad by CPH based film-maker Kamil Dosaar, the film seemed to focus on transition, de-composition and duality. Focusing absolute attention on the minute to a molecular level. Illustrations of lines and dots lit the screen as the scenes shifted from abstract mathematical prisms distorting reality, underwater minglings of fish in the sea, the shoreline overlayed with tangental offerings of poetry and finally still frames of man on dry land. I wasn’t able to reach Rezanejad for comment, but from what I could take from the captivating experience and after careful review of my footage was a journey moving from the sea to dry land. A far-reaching, ambitious project following where we are, where we have been and the tiny sprinklings of chance involved with each movement of transition on a human and universal level. As one viewer put it, ”The room was at capacity, but I felt I was all alone. Left to myself to deal my daily experiences and caught up in a world devoid of comfort or threat. I felt like a ghost watching visions of life though a clouded lens, and at the same time I was becoming a ghost to my own present moment.” It was an adventure and a work which confronted the duality and uncertainty in existence juxtaposed with close attention toward simple things universally grasped yet frequently passed over.

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If the feeling of drifting away haunted the plastic walls, an energetic set from Khalil brought a true communal aspect back to the evening. One man down, and operating without charismatic controls wizard Villads Klint, Simon Formann and Nikolaj Vonsild worked double time. Perhaps it worked for the best as elbow room was becoming an issue leaving the duo with very little room to roam. Seemingly unaffected, Vonsild and Formann had plenty in the tank and as has become expected gave the room a static buzz. It’s an intriguing thing watching Khalil at the moment. A young and jovial fan base with an optimistic feeling follows them wherever they perform. At this point people have had the chance to become familiar with them, and they not only dance and jump, but have memorized the words. Certain tracks are becoming adored and looked forward to with expectation. Khalil is a group that seems to bring an exultant and rebellious, yet cozy feeling in their performances. As one person described, ”They are something I look forward to, I’m with my friends, I am meeting new people and sometimes with Khalil I am looking forward to just getting fucked up!” Fucked or not, Khalil are creating a strong and agreeable fanbase if you havn’t seen them do their thing live, do yourself a favor, Go.

Whenever Mayhem gets filled to capacity and heat from bodies and the cigarette smoke from hundreds of lights feels the air a trip to the exits calls at the first sign of silence. I am flanked by some friends and a black cat who has taken a liking to me in the alleyway. Originally from the states people are asking me if I am looking forward to the headliner who also hails from my birth country. Truth is I have never seen Yves Tumor live and I am going into this thing nearly blind. Apart from a few samplings of his acclaimed album “Serpent Music” and a legendary appearance in a recent Helmut Lang campaign I am just as curious as everyone else for what will happen. An enigmatic and mysterious figure, Yves Tumor (one of his many names) writes and reaches from a plethora of influences from experimental to noise, classic rock and sometimes all out soul it’s hard to predict what will happen in his recordings and even more so his live acts. A line is reaching well around the corner, many people won’t be getting in and I thank my lucky stars I’m on staff. A mixture of clear and red lights ignite the plastic performance cube for Tumor’s performance and an extraordinarily harsh, invasive score feels the air. I can barely hear as I climb atop a cabinet for a clear view. Voices and calculated screams stun all onlookers. The gates of hell are open, someone is being cast out.

Sitting atop an antique piano tucked in a corner behind the formerly plastic partitioned shield I am elevated above what is quickly turning into an all out frenzy. Starting with a gripping and escalating wall of the harshest and disgusting and most visceral noise I have ever heard, a lean, flexible and raith-like figure swarms about the lightly transluscent plastic shield building up curiousity and expectation before furiously clawing his way through to transparency. Now in the first few minutes past his plea for personal space, he is starting to prod, analyze and make contact with his bewildered and shocked audience. The sound is all encompassing, its jolting yet uninviting, drilling without a shed of mercy, it rests in the vapors surrounding your head and pummels its way into your chest like a sound grenade detonating with the strength of a hundred hell hounds. Some stand still with mouth’s wide open and others involuntarily begin to surrender and knod there heads without discernable melody. It’s not quite fury, it’s not even over the top. There is a strange honesty in it attached to the numerous beads of sweat falling from Tumor’s head. He has gone away, it has taken much energy, tuck in for the ride or go home. These are the options.

After a torrent of adjustments from Tumor at the controls and some ferociously ear-splitting and body numbing tones straight from a waking nightmare, he cocks his head back and lets out a wail that could confront even the most hardened noise head. He takes to the crowd. With his arms outstretched and the gauze-like wrap he wears like a ballerina wandering the ruins after an air assault, he begins to push and force his way into the audience without missing a screech. Pulsing along with the deep bass and seering ambient dominating the air people begin to push back and forth creating a motly pit of instinct. The tones being unleashed feel designed for complete surrender, no reason, no plan, no cause, just move, move for your life. It’s been a while since I have been in a pit, in California this sort of thing is much more common then in CPH and I am relishing the opportunity to have at it again. Formerly known for bringing my camera with me into the sprawl I am happy to find out as friends fly by and Tumor intermittently screams in my ear that I have retained my talents. With my recorder on and each moment akin to a scrum on the rugby pitch I begin to feel a strange sensation. Perhaps from lack of sleep I begin to worry that people have surrendered so much that someone could be hurt and no-one would notice, or something bad could happen and people would just think it was part of the act. My worst thoughts are dampened after a friend hit the deck and collapsed into Tumor’s arms who was by now singing on the edge of his “shield” with my friend’s head resting in his lap. Safety was still close, the experience present and relentless.

“The feeling went way beyond excitement. It was a complete surrender to the merciless chaos of the soundscape. I was knocked onto the stage, it felt like falling into Yves’ own gravitational field. I was blinded by a blue spotlight in the ceiling. I imagine it must be how it feels to ascend from death into heaven.”
After a few moments of bliss my friend is picked up off the ground as Tumor moves on into the final stages of his act. I can only describe the feeling of intensity in the room to be as if Mayhem were a space station with a clear ceiling and you are entering the earths atmosphere. The sound is beyond deafening and you are being thrown about against everyone in the craft watching flames sear and cover the view as you descend back to the planet. Within the freefall is an ever-present ghoul invading everything with a sound to big for heaven or hell. Some called it a hug or love, others grotesque and disgusting. No matter your thoughts it was one certainly something. Fucking unforgettable.

I don’t really remember much after wandering past the bar and into the air. Unlocking my bike was a blur with my head still pounding, the caffeine supplements from earlier wearing off fast and a far delayed sleep tugging at my eyelids. As wild as it had been in Mayhem it was slightly more subdued in the graffiti laden courtyard that seperates the venue from the outside world. Whatever Yves just dropped was like a localized drug, with the raucous effects dissipated in the building like smoke escaping a shattered window in an inferno. By the street numerous attendees are climbing into a party bus chartered specially and somewhat comically by the Knife crew. More revelry awaits in the outer limits of Copenhagen at Refshaleøen, the opposite end from Nordvest. Many friends and nice people will be celebrating until the wee hours of the morning, but not me this time … My pillow needs attention.

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Having given myself a couple of days to look back on the evening I find myself re-visiting the roughly 45 minutes when Tumor let loose. No doubt a talented musician and artist I am not sure I could characterize what was performed as music. I have this sensation with noise oriented projects from time to time and mean it in no way as a slight, but music is not always the sole focus in sound performance. This was more a completely different way of viewing and experiencing sound from outside the familiar patterns of narrative or recognizable melody. What Tumor did for me was most akin to sound performance with a heavy artistic focus that bordered on being an all out interactive side-show. He wasn’t separate from the sounds, he seemed to take on the darkness as a personal cloak. The score and the body as singular, and anything that remained in its path after the shedding of the “shield” was swept into its influence mercilessly. You had to take on the body of destruction with him or exit the situation. True to the extreme nature of the act, Tumor left no room for indifference. There were two choices, it was black or white. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that darkness won and for the people who were there I think it will be thought of and talked about for far beyond the present.

Sometimes I feel it’s perfectly normal not to understand the content of a performance. There are many modes of surrender when it comes to sound, and what we experienced with Yves Tumor in Mayhem came from the most extreme, cerebral corners of the mind which conjure visions of chaos and aggressive destruction. What struck me most in the fury on the floor was the united feeling it created and the viral transference of nihilistic un-purpose felt without the need to inflict tangible damage. Like an individual learning to slip past the “what ifs” of action and into the “what is” of experience, Tumor caused a pure tumble into a new landscape with this act of invitation without compromise. While we are all left with our own interpretation ranging from the over-calculated to the sensationally basic it may help to remember one thing.

Don’t fuck with his shield and everything will happen precisely how it’s supposed to: Knife style, adventurous, explorative, fun and perfectly unpredictable.