So here’s the legend, summarized from a page on the Kindercore Records website: The Frosted Ambassador was an artist who began recording in 1977 with a band named Chronicle Ape and the New Sound, and then started a solo career which went mostly unnoticed. A tape of his work was found under the belly of a “Freedom Goose” overseas by an American serviceman, who accidentally sent the tape home to his family in Georgia in place of an audio letter.
And here’s the truth: The Frosted Ambassador is actually the solo work of Eric Harris, Olivia Tremor Control’s drummer, which means The Frosted Ambassador is something like the 300th release to come out of the Elephant 6 collective this year. Unfortunately, if OTC’s Black Foliage is the best E6 full-length of 1999, Harris is still only shooting 50%, as his Frosted Ambassador project is likely the worst.
Where OTC succeeded in melding wonderful songs out of the Elephant 6 trademark collage of chimes, toy instruments and tape loops, Harris’ work with those same sounds never becomes more than white noise. Both Black Foliage and The Frosted Ambassador are sprawling, druggy recordings of Beatleseque pop, but where Black Foliage sounded like several different concepts sharing control of the album’s direction, The Frosted Ambassador doesn’t seem to be driven by any concept except inorganization. It’s a mess of song fragments splattered onto a canvas like paint spit through a straw, and the results are mostly intolerable.
The chaotic feel of The Frosted Ambassador is obviously intentional, as evidenced by Harris’ refusal to use pauses between tracks or even any song titles. Portions of tracks are occasionally repeated several tracks later, and even pieces of Black Foliage are sampled. The album is a total disavowwal of structure, and while Harris deserves credit for such a concept, that doesn’t make his work listenable. After 20 minutes or so, The Frosted Ambassador is unbearable.
The recording is 40 minutes long, and had it been an EP, it might be far easier to digest. The fuzzy guitars on tracks three and six (it’d be inappropriate to call them “songs”) reference the White Album, which often ignored structure itself. When a singer asks a barely audible “Can you hear me?” on the album’s first track, hidden behind a cacaphony of chimes, keyboards and rumbling bass, you can’t help but snicker at the joke. Track five begins as a catchy pop/folk song with female vocals, morphs into a completely different song with male vocals, and then switchs back to the song with which it began. But that’s where the highlights end, because Harris’ point is already made after 20 minutes, and the piling on afterwards simply effects a headache rather than reinforce the point. There are clever ideas in tracks seven through 12, for sure, but you’ll be hard-pressed to notice them because you’re waiting for the album to end.
I’d like to recommendThe Frosted Ambassador. It’s a clever concept, and it’s certainly not a bad recording. But 20 minutes isn’t worth the price of a full-length, and neither is the headache that the full 40 will undoubtedly give.
// Notes from the Road
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