Tusks at The Workshop, London

March 21, 2014

This Hot Vox curated event was part of their Those Nights series, which aims to showcase underground or emerging genres in the belly of The Workshop. Tonight’s general theme looks to be something along the lines of ambient electro music, or at least some sort of tangent from that area. It’s the first headline slot for Tusks, who previously built a reputable global following as Emily Underhill before switching to a more ambiguous moniker a few months back.

Opening the show was solo multi-instrumentalist Jack Garratt. Before a note has been played he has won us over with a robust beard. He makes fresh feeling electronic music that has a few murky undercurrants to mix things up a bit and the odd bit of blues guitar wailing through. Most notable is his honey-soaked soulful vocals, which are given room to roar every now and again. An enrapturing performance from a man who we predict a major breakout from in the very near future.

Nyokeë was another solo act with many bits of kit on stage, making synth heavy Fantasy Pop with dramatic lyrics. Her voice had a traditional, almost Folk, element to it which added an honesty to the sound that wound together with the landscape that her music was creating. She was at her best when getting lost in the production of this world, it was like meeting your favourite computer game character and spending a few minutes together in a digital forest of light and pixels.

The middle spot on the line-up was occupied by Tape Runs Out, who played wistful Indie-folk with a good heart There was a laptop onstage adding some subtle layers, but we wouldn’t quite go as far as calling this Folktronica. Complex lines and a delectable guitar tone helped them to stand out. It was the most distant part of a daydream, catching the eye of a beautiful stranger as they board a plane, and other pretentious ways of saying it made you feel quite nice.

In the main support slot we had Essex duo YSBM, who played a mostly relaxed set that felt like a curious UFO drifting through an empty street. A thoughtful House base meant that it was reminiscent of the more interesting sections of the charts in places, there’s definitely that sort of potential here. Closing tracks ‘Animal’ and ‘Mango’ raised the tempo in places after a solid foundation was built. The latter was written “about a mango that was in our fridge for ages.” Good to know.

A delicate piano at the beginning ofTusks‘set instantly silenced a chatty audience. A shimmering wall of spacious production slides in and is used with reserve throughout the set. It would be tempting to use all of the technology available to mask any weaknesses in instrumentation and songwriting, but it’s kept to the background tonight. The effect of this is that when it does take a more bold position you can see the vision she had when creating it. It becomes a deep, moving layer of the sound. Her vocal is remarkably pure, it’s highlighted best on ‘Answers’ when she delivers the line “who’s gonna love you more than I do?” with devastating openness.

The set is closed with ‘Dreamcatcher’ and it’s more of a kiss goodnight than ceremonial fireworks. A drifting, longing number that has a giant pause before the hook which leads to a generously satisfying drop. It’s a tight performance featuring all new material that will be released on her Ink EP, which is due in May. Look out for it, here’s a taster.

There was also a joke about Tinder, every gig should have a joke about Tinder.

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