The Tough Alliance

Escaping Your Ambitions

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A detour -- perhaps it would be more appropriate to call it a vacation -- in between their first two albums of exuberant, giddily inventive widescreen pop, Escaping Your Ambitions finds the Tough Alliance in ambient mode, offering a continuous, album-length odyssey through wordless (if not entirely vocal-less) and often beatless soundscapes. With its palette of dreamy analog synths, myriad electronic and organic percussion, and TTA's always prominent beachy, tropical vibe -- made even more conspicuous here with the frequent sounds of waves and seagulls, occasional bongos and tablas, and an overarching nautical "concept" -- it's not unlike a far more subdued, spaciously diluted dub version of their pop albums, though perhaps a closer reference point would be the Balearic chill-out electronica proffered by their labelmates (on Service and Sincerely Yours, respectively) Studio and Air France. For the most part, it's even more ambient than those groups, though, and indeed an appropriate title more in keeping with TTA's other album releases might have been "New Age", although at least one cut ("Leg 3") does feature danceable beats and poppy keyboard hooks. The final destination on this sonic cruise trip turns out to be "The Lagoon," which in typically twisted TTA fashion features the disconcerting repeated phrase "You want to treat us like criminals? We can behave like criminals." Released in a limited edition of 500 copies through the Tough Alliance's then-fledgling Sincerely Yours label, one can only hope this will see a wider reissue someday, as it's both a fine and revelatory counterpart to TTA's "proper" full-lengths and a decidedly pleasurable voyage in its own right.

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