The debut album from Tusks (aka Emily Underhill) is a very visual listen. However, unlike a lot of modern indie electronic artists, Underhill’s colors are bright yet muted. Much of Dissolve embraces the blacks and grays of the 80s goth and darkwave scenes, but there’s a dulled neon vibrancy under the surface. This is matched thematically, too: these are dark tales of loss and frustration, yet that neon palate rears its head to reveal a stirring sense of perseverance and grace. It’s like a mid-point between self-doubt and self-reflection. Dissolve never becomes optimistic, but it’s at least wistful.
Musically, the unique color palate does blend together a bit too much at times. This feels like an album that is meant more to transport the listener into a contemplative state of mind than serve as sing-along fodder; Dissolve is certainly a consistently haunting and impressive listen, though that cohesive nature makes some of the album’s mid-section blend together too much. The unexpected sonic aggression and relative bombast in “Last” and the title track are the album’s real highlights, hinting at the soaring heights that Tusks is capable of. Based on those two songs alone, Underhill’s ethereal voice and musical ability showcase a boatload of potential. The fact that she’s created something that is better than its individual pieces combined reveals that Tusks is an artist on the rise and one who clearly can write the next modern indie electronic classic. She just isn’t there quite yet.