Some things end gradually. They fade away slowly, often slow enough that you aren’t even aware it’s over until much later. But other times it’s more sudden. It’s an intense and heartbreaking end, violent in its abruptness.
Tusks’ 2017 album Dissolve showed the slow dissolution of a relationship. Singer/songwriter Emily Underhill created sparse and haunting atmospheric soundscapes juxtaposed with harsh, wailing post-rock climaxes where her vocal lines faded away into the ether. Two years later, she’s refined everything that made Dissolve my 2017 album of the year – the quiet moments are even more chilling and tender while the louder moments are absolutely crushing. She’s sadder, angrier, and has only improved lyrically, compositionally and musically (despite suffering a broken elbow between albums).
Like the unforgiving force of nature that an avalanche is, this album is dark, deep and crushing. It’s ferocious. Intense. Every second demands your full emotional investment. At times I close my eyes and see shattering ice sheets, water eroding rock, glaciers melting and forests burning. I don’t think this is an accident – the visuals of manmade environmental destruction relates perfectly to the lyrical content of manmade relational destruction.
This is especially potent in the lead single Peachy Keen, which is a sarcastic takedown of patriarchal sexism, perhaps the most scathing since Braids’ Miniskirt. The climax in the title track sounds like a literal avalanche, with Tusks’ buried voice crying beneath a cacophonous wall of sound, “Bury me like an avalanche.” Listening to Bleach feels like a cleansing, a brief respite in the storm, with the repeated phrase, “I’ll bleach my soul” whispering through beeps and glitches. In Foreign, Tusks’s voice is distant in the mix, lamenting, “I don’t see you like I used to / I can’t feel you like I sued to.” And Salt is a perfect closer, with the chorus’s line “Does it end with you?” able to be taken several different ways, any one of which magically ties the entire album together.
Does it all end buried alone beneath this manmade avalanche? Or buried together in the avalanche they’d both created – thus ending the search for someone to “Be Mine”?