The Vegetable Orchestra Automate Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Second album from the world's first Vegetable based orchestra offers an organic take...

Peter Marsh 2003

Vienna has along and illustrious history of musical invention, so maybe it's no surprise that it should produce the world's first (as far as I know) Vegetable Orchestra. This nine piece are devoted to "the interpretation and reconstruction of electronic music with organic means", using various vegetables as their sound sources. Are they serious, or is this just an arty joke? (sorry). Well, it's a bit of both. There's a whiff of humour in their presentation (check the rather lovely sleeve, which features diagrams of instruments such as the 'Radisynth' and the 'Vegetal synthesiser 3.03'). However, sonically the orchestra have plenty going for them, and approach their music with a commitment that transcends Dada pranksterism.

Sculpting their veggies into flutes, marimbas and sundry other precussive instruments, the orchestra blow, stroke and beat them, guided by various forms of notation. Most of the pieces revolve around insistent, primitive beats, topped off witha drizzle of rustling, breathy stabs, squeaks and keening whistles. The Basic Channel-esque "Greenhouse" is powered by a bassline that could have emerged from a knackered old synth, while the aptly titled "Noiz" is a texturally dense, tightly arranged slice of abstraction that'd give Merzbow a run for his money.

Though the orchestra employ two sound engineers, their job is to catch the presumably tiny sounds generated rather than mess them around with DSP trickery. That would be missing the point; the orchestra are interested primarily in live performance. Their virtuosity (yes, that is the right word) shines through on the two cover versions included here, particularly their take on Kraftwerk's "Radioaktivitat", which suggests that Ralf and Florian may have been just as well off with a trip to the local grocers as with a roomful of moogs.

The beauty of this record is that after a while you can stop wondering about exactly what they're doing and what they're doing it with, and lose yourself in the strange little sonic landscapes this lot conjure up.Plus if you go to one of their gigs, you'll also get to eat the soup they cook with the instruments at the end of the performance. Now you don't get that kind of service with Autechre, do you? Recommended.

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