When Emily Underhill released her first EP as Tusks in 2014, it was clear that the then-23-year-old had a distinct vision. The four ambient electro-pop songs that comprised Ink were soft and introspective—gathering strength through quiet moments rather than stacking beats so high they might topple over. Piano led the charge, framing the London native’s rich, captivating vocals. The songs were mesmerizing, painting pictures through sounds. In 2016, she followed up with the EP False, on which she ornamented her songs with guitar accents and grounded them in the percussive rumbling of live drums. Tusks’s debut full-length, Dissolve, begins where False left off, with Underhill exploring the psychic ache of love and loss, and continuing to portray the visual through the aural.
The album opens with “For You,” a chant-based piano ballad that quickly transitions from melancholy into urgency. The second track, “False,” is anchored by a pounding piano line, soft drums, and a sporadic, anxious guitar riff as Underhill whispers “I still believe, I still believe in you.” As the record continues, the songs build and swell and break back down again, Underhill’s steady vocals as the only constant as the album pulls deep focus on the intricacies of an unhealthy relationship. “Drench in recklessness / Disguise your selfish mess,” she sings at the beginning of “My Love” before finally succumbing to her toxic partner. “Oh my love, how you pull me back / I was lost, I didn’t see outside my head,” she confesses, amidst soft, disorienting beats.
The subject matter is deeply personal yet comfortingly universal; given the body of work Underhill has amassed until now, this seems entirely intentional. Cinematic, emotive, and thoughtful, Dissolve encapsulates everything Tusks has been building to over the last three and a half years. It’s well worth the wait.