Album Review: Tusks - 'Avalanche'
‘Avalanche’ by TUSKS is a haunting and introspective exploration into the human condition: full of haunting synths, reverberating guitars and soaring, elegant vocals, nothing is out of place on this chillingly powerful auditory journey.
I discovered TUSKS through her supporting of Bear’s Den on their latest tour; even then, without knowing the band, the songs or the stories that came with them, I was entranced. But the word ‘entranced’ doesn’t do Emily Underwood’s sophomore album justice. From the glacially slow, eerie opener ‘Demon’ — an eerie, atmospheric love song, with Emily’s husky vocals proclaiming ‘I crave you/ skin on my skin’ — to the rampaging, brutal closer ‘Salt’, where she asks, whether intimate with the listener or existential to the ether, ‘does it end with you?’; finishing with a slow monotone beep that slowly fades into nothing... the album is amazing. The songs transition from slow and stunning to ferocious and intense, particular with ‘Be Mine’, and everything in between.
The singles did perfectly in laying the groundwork for what was to come in the album. Between the afore mentioned ‘Be Mine’, the almost cinematic pounding, electronic-tinged beat of ‘Foreign’ and the gripping, driven ‘Peachy Keen’, about the inherent sexism and misogyny in a patriarchal zeitgeist, each seemed perfectly different from each other whilst possessing that unique TUSKS sound of arresting, electric indie brilliance.
Title track, ‘Avalanche’, is especially poignant. It reverberates through your ear, echoing in and off of itself; it’s almost tantalising in its own building suspense, with just her transcendent vocals over some reverberating guitars, fading into nothingness — before exploding into a fury, a pounding drum beat overpowering anything else, with mere hints that the guitar and vocals still exist. Like an avalanche should, it envelops everything, trampling over what came before, and gives the track its perfect end.
It’s almost impossible to not give the album your full attention. It’s futuristic — often I found myself imagining rising, dystopian towers of gleaming black reminiscent of something from Blade Runner or Black Mirror — yet somehow closer to the unstoppable force of Nature; polar sheets fracturing, glaciers sliding inexorably towards the ocean that lays below it. It speaks to the incredible production of the album, let alone the songs themselves, that it manages to wash everything else away. Yes, it may be a more ‘positive and energetic record’, as Emily describes it, than it’s predecessor, but it’s no less brutal in its honesty and sheer beauty. And, given it was written in less than four months, it speaks of an insane talent, and one only set to grow.
Words by James O’Sullivan