Following her incredibly promising False EP last year, Emily Underhill, the producer and singer known as Tusks has released her debut album Dissolve.
The immersively dark atmosphere of Dissolve becomes apparent instantly on opener ‘For You’. Underhill’s vocals, mostly just the two words in the title, are repeated in an emotive FKA Twigs like falsetto atop creeping percussive crunches. This, coupled with the slow, brooding piano chords ripple and grow throughout creating a vast and powerful sense of vulnerability.
The Portishead-esque ‘False’, which, along with ‘For You’, we’ve heard before on her False EP, chronicles a rejection of the feeling you don’t know the one you love, but you instead love the idea of them. The repetition of “Do you still believe in me?” both highlights the lyrics importance and acts as a sonic base for the rest of the song to grow around. The thick drip of a reverby guitar note on each beat, is gradually joined by a flood of screaming guitars, clattering drums and a lyrical reversal of “I still believe in you”.
Similarly, the equally cinematic single ‘Toronto’ details symptoms of depression almost as an aspect of her relationship, as Underhill confesses “I don’t feel your passion for anything”, “I don’t feel your love reach me”. Though the album’s consistency nudges tedium, details like the drums on the build-up in ‘My Love’ sound similar to the microbeats used on Björk’s Vulnicura, while the vocoder backing vocals add a gritty layer of texture to the track.
Some of the songs, ‘Last’ and ‘Dissolve’ most obviously, stand out for their pop sensibilities and their ability to feel liberating while still firmly tied down to the record’s sadness. While the feel of the record remains consistent, each song hits like a wave, gradually developing and growing, only start from silence again on the next track. This and the silences, most noticeably on ’1807’, can feel frustrating at times. However, these undulating waves of sadness and quiet contribute to its encapsulation of dissolving from reality into a state of melancholia heartbreakingly well.