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11 May 2015

Frosted Ambassador (Kindercore)

The Frosted Ambassador is another in the long line of pseudo-anonymous LPs, except the man behind this one (Eric Harris of Olivia Tremor Control) never was very good at keeping the secret. Naming the project after an existing Olivia Tremor Control song (and one that Harris's drumming played a prominent role on) was a dead giveaway, and when I asked him in person years ago if this was his work, he denied it with a knowing smirk. Anonymity isn't necessary though; this isn't particularly mysterious music, descending from the Olivia's neo-retro-psych pop (and I realise 15 years after their heydey, the "neo" and "retro" parts of that silly descriptor are already anachronistic and meaningless). This is largely instrumental, but has a bit of singing on a few of the untitled songs (where space is provided on the sleeve to write in your own song titles) - mostly on the opener, which is a real barnstormer. This could have all the members of Olivia Tremor Control playing on it, because the trademarks are all there: 4-track psychedelia that pushes the limits of the format's fidelity in occasionally spellbinding ways; thick, fuzzy basslines; steady, often marching band-styled drumming, and lots of little instruments peering around the cracks. Everything is pretty organic, including the electronics, which are limited to tape manipulations,  simple Casio tones and beats, and effects-pedal processing. It's as colourful as the album art indicates, with fluttering rock chords offset by chimes, bells, ethnic instruments (though played in a fairly major-key manner), and the occasional field recordings or other samples. It's very palatable accessibility, and it really stands up nicely against the Olivia's "proper" albums. The more goofy, erratic parts are built around the tape manipulations, which even when they jerk around in a start-stop way, they have a warm melodiousness to them. The penultimate track is the deepest work, with thick slabs of sound over which a million melted video games battle for some sort of supremacy. Maybe this is the record for people who would like Olivia Tremor Control if they removed all of the Beatles influence - if you wanted OTC to sound more like Bügsküll, here's your ticket.