Atmospheric and enigmatic, Dissolve is the debut album from Tusks, the musical project of singer-songwriter, visual artist and producer Emily Underhill.
From the outset, the breadth of Underhill’s ambition is clear: Opening track “For You” is an expansive collage of plaintive piano, sampled vocals and enigmatic beats that recalls the melancholic R&B-inflected electronica of James Blake. Lead single “Dissolve” is a contemplative ode to a destructive relationship, with Underhill conjuring uneasy imagery – “you’re acid, you’re eroding me” – over a backdrop of reverb-heavy guitars, recalling Disintegration-era The Cure.
Even the more straightforward tracks belie a well-cultivated sense of mystery: “False” juxtaposes slow-burning guitars and drums with fragmentary lyrics addressed to a ghost-like protagonist: “I don’t know you at all / I still believe in you… you don’t want to exist.”
The low-key, downbeat nature of the production means that some tracks cross the line into dirge, lacking a hook of interest: “Ivy” is a retread of ideas better explored elsewhere, and “My Love” feels throwaway after the towering drama of album standout “Toronto”.
Overall Dissolve is primarily concerned with the cultivation of atmosphere, which is strong and sustained throughout – even across the few weaker tracks – and it is a promising introduction to an artist with a clear vision and a quietly experimental approach.