Third is an instrumental album of folky tunes which sprawl out vast landscapes before your eyes, some evoking the far West with blues inspired guitar work, and others keeping in Tout’s native England, with whimsical folk features such as a double bass and violins. The tunes build and grow and always seem fresh upon every listen.
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Can ambient music sound like Chris Isaak? If it can, then it’s Tout’s fault. A band attuning folk roots into a slow and languishing type of post-rock, they end up making melodramatic lounge music, the kind that’s only a bar closing time away from being “Wicked Game”. On ‘Third’, the band continue to move slowly toward instrumental torch songs, placating their slick, open world guitar tones with some ground dirt.
Tout approach roots folk like it’s a familiar friend: it is the stuff that makes them sound as chill as Real Estate, the double bass there to put their compositions in a warm bold font, the violins appearing as a gorgeous buffer, giving the slow, meandering guitar lines some form of dramatic force. On its own, the noodling, meditatively technical guitar is Isaak all over: clean as a whistle, but dustier than a country road, it invokes nostalgia and then makes the nostalgia sad. Think Loren Connors, too: chords only appear incidentally to a wandering kind of folk jazz that sounds like it’s walked in from a storm -- on “And Risked My Life”, strums on an acoustic guitar join the soloing like a stranger giving Tout directions.
If you’ve heard Tout before, you know and likely cherish the ambiguities of their sound: Tortoise, Rachel’s, and Earth all exist in their music, but so too do the folkies, the primitivists, the romantics. If you think they’re making soundscapes and letting them lie, then listen to the way they sprinkle piano over “For That Damned Stage”. What a manipulative bunch -- Isaak would be proud.
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