New Music: Tusks

10th June 2016

Torn is the latest sumptuous single to be released from the London electronic artist and producer Tusks – also known as Emily Underhill – and it is a continuation of the easeful music that she has so far revealed to the world, having already announced the video for the beautiful title track of her new EP, False, at the end of May. After releasing her debut EP, Ink, back in 2014, this new song is the teaser in advance of Underhill’s second record, which is due to be released on the tenth of June and will no doubt go down a storm.
Though it is not her lightest piece – no surprises that Torn is appropriately low and sombre, given its name – it is a great example of the fragile nature of Tusks’ music; it is not flashy, it is not looking to get your attention, but instead it is quite simple in its ways and is all the better for it. Underhill’s softened vocals float over a restrained, minimalist instrumental that creates a real atmosphere to the single, allowing the best instrument of the lot – Underhill’s voice – to really come to prominence over the course of it.
Tusks
While some comparisons have already been drawn to that of Daughter’s Elena Tonra, for the somewhat wintry nature of her material and vocal style, I wouldn’t go putting Tusks in quite the same downbeat category as that (much as I love the music of Daughter). There is less sorrow to be found in Underhill’s creations – even with Torn there is more of an introverted sadness about the track that doesn’t want you to know it exists, rather than any expressive melancholy. Instead the song cautiously meanders along and offers a focused platform for Underhill’s restrained production to show itself off; in this case, less has certainly meant more.
As if the music itself weren’t enough, what is even more likeable about Emily Underhill is that there is thought, almost to a conceptual level, of how her work can reflect on her environment – take the video for False as an example of this. According to Underhill, the record itself is inspired (for lack of a better word) by the journey of watching someone deal with their mental illness, so when there was an opportunity to make a visual manifestation of that, the opportunity was roundly taken in a collaboration with director Jamie Muir. If nothing else, it is an important reminder in service of an ever-growing health concern that affects all of us in some way or another, even if we might not know it.

Perhaps the beauty of Tusks is that she comes at the electronic music genre from a completely different angle to what most might anticipate, given the connotations that come with describing any band as ‘electronic’. What Emily Underhill has managed to create under the guise of Tusks is an enigmatic and engrossing musical act that confronts the sobriety of the world we live in – the secret is that she doesn’t bring you down in doing so.
 
Words by Sion Ford

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