Following two revered albums, ‘Dissolve’ in 2017 and ‘Avalanche’ in 2019, London-based electronic songwriter and producer Tusks, aka Emily Underhill, has returned with her third. Titled ‘Gold’, the new album will be released on April 12th this year via One Little Independent, with new single 'Adore' is out now.
‘Gold’ took form slowly over several months spent rewriting and reworking; half created at home in the middle of London and half during two solitary trips to Devon, where many of the songs found their inspiration. In need of some space, away from a shared house that had just been through a pandemic together as well as from a relationship that was coming to an end, she travelled to the south-west. It was here that she would get the bulk of her writing done, recognising there were some things she would have to work through alone, and in no small part it came to her in the form of a torrential storm. Bringing the album back to London, Tusks partnered with producer Tom Andrews to bring the tracks to life from studios like Ten87 in Tottenham and SS2 Recording in Southend.
Synth-heavy and fuelled by emotionally charged layers of heavenly vocal harmonies, the album is densely constructed, meticulously produced and cathartic. Across ten tracks of deeply resonant electronic pop, the soundscapes crafted here sway from the blissful, ambient and thought-provoking, to slow-building ragers. Through pressure and release, ‘Gold’ explores dynamics, nuances and emotions using an array of atmospheric and kinetic textures as well as Tusks’ singular, powerful voice.
Anyone familiar with her career to date will note that Tusks’ relationship with music as a means to communicate vulnerability is well documented. There’s a raw, exposed nature to her writing that feels authentic and intimate. She often describes the complications and subtleties of relationships in a way that’s reflective and relatable. ‘Gold’ maps various stages in the breakdown of aromance, but it also stops to consider the impact of isolation, individually and socially, as well as anxiety, mental health and the wider effects of austerity.
“A lot of this album was inspired by contrasting experiences” Tusks explains, “Processing a breakup and then falling in love again. Being constantly surrounded by people in lockdown, then suddenly being completely alone and free. Being in the city vs being in nature. We wanted to echo these contrasts in the production of the music so constantly moved between lo-fi and hi-fi production - sampling our own drum beats, recording them through compressed tin can mics and processing through loads of analogue gear and a 404 then switching to cleaner, larger sounding kits achieved by recording with mics in back rooms and the ceiling to give the impression of space. There was a huge analogue influence on the production and mix too by using loads of analogue synths and modular, putting a lot of the stems through tape and getting to be really creative with using delay throws and feedback on the 501 Space Echo. It was such a fun process and allowed Tom and I to delve into doing exactly what we love.”
In its production, ‘Gold’ is a musician’s album, Tusks pushed herself further during the creative process, slaving over each snare sample and the tone of each synth note. On tracks like ‘Adore’ it’s used to examine two opposite ends of the partnership spectrum; “Adore is about falling in love with someone at the start of a relationship when you're asking yourself if it’s a good idea, if you should fall for that person or whether you should keep yourself guarded. Artificial Flame is about the point I'd also realised I was no longer in love with my partner at the time. It’s about coming to that realisation and processing it.” It was while thunder rolled and rain poured outside that Underhill was able to deal with some of these things, “I didn’t really speak to anyone for days, and the storm came over. Weirdly, that ended up inspiring the chorus hook because I couldn’t light a fire without using a load of firelighters, which then made this massive green flame. I was kinda staring at it, then the phrase Artificial Flame popped into my head and seemed to sum up everything I was feeling.”
Early on Tusks drew comparisons to Sigur Rós and Explosions In The Sky, gaining support from the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac and Huw Stephens, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Mixmag, MOJO, Wonderland and more. She released her debut album ‘Dissolve’ to critical acclaim, produced alongside Brett Cox (Jack Garratt, Alt J, Marika Hackman). Second album ‘Avalanche’ led Tusks further into the world of grunge and shoegaze. Taking inspiration from My Bloody Valentine, Marika Hackman and Wolf Alice, the album went on to gain her support from ever widening audiences across the world, as well as syncs on hit shows such as Netflix’s ‘13 Reasons Why’.
Having previously supported Khurangbin, Ásgeir, Bear’s Den and Submotion Orchestra, Tusks embarked on her first European and UK headline tour at the start of 2020, including nights at London’s prestigious Village Underground (which she recorded and released as a live album) and Berlin’s Berghain Panorama Bar. In 2021 she collaborated with CJ Mirra on the soundtrack for feature film ‘A Banquet’.
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