The Vegetable Orchestra ~ Green Album

After Halloween we’ll be asking, “what are we going to do with all these pumpkins and gourds?”  Some people eat them, but most throw them out.  According to The Vegetable Orchestra, this is a missed opportunity.  One particular pumpkin meets its end on this album in the service of art, its sound preserved forever, as seen in the video below.  This unique ensemble is celebrating its twentieth year with its fourth album, and it may be amusing, but it’s also musically sublime.

Don’t play with your food.  We all hear this as kids, especially when we use green beans as drumsticks or blow bubbles into our drinks.  Either someone forgot to tell these performers, or they rejected the rule.  They’ve made a career out of vegetable music, but amazingly are not a novelty act; they find inspiration in Terry Riley, Steve Reich and West African kora music.  On the surface, it’s hard to take them seriously, but when one begins to realize just how much work went into the construction of these instruments and these compositions, one begins to admire them for their chutzpah, talent and devotion to a theme.

The ensemble’s last album, Onionoise, was released at the beginning of the decade and imitated the timbres of modern electronic music.  “Scoville” is still their best track, and a fine introduction to their sound.  Tracks such as “Nightshades” and “Pocket Stampede” are similarly endearing.  Yet that set’s longer pieces slow the momentum.  In contrast, Green Album is the dectet’s best-sequenced work from start to finish.  It’s still high art, but far more accessible, and will make a great gift for vegetarians and music lovers everywhere.

The opening notes sound like maracas and flutes.  But “Szemenye” is deceiving ~ these are all vegetables, not metal.  There are carrot flutes on the album, along with scallion oboes, celery solos and more.  “Perfect Match” is a purposeful imitation of a rap battle, performed with water radishes over pumpkin percussion.  “Fasern” sounds just like a wooden xylophone, and makes one want to dance.  When the ensemble imitates foghorns and duduk on “Schwarzmooskogel,” the success is a revelation.  Perhaps we’ve been thinking about music all wrong, and our first instincts ~ banging stones together, whistling into grass ~ were the right ones all along.

The brevity of the exploratory pieces heightens their impact.  “Fragliatore” is a subtle track, but it all makes sense when one learns that the majority of the sound is produced by green beans.  Many Asian restaurants offer a bowl of snap peas as an appetizer; one wonders what it’s like to go out to dinner with these musicians.  “Internal Crisis” sounds like a small herd of harmonizing sheep, producing the album’s greatest irony ~ that vegetables can sound like animals.  The Viennese ensemble has a sense of humor, as seen in the Krautfunding video ~ the German word being a vegetable pun.  Green Album may go down in history as an alternative to The Beatles’ The White Album and the many variations of The Black Album (Prince, Metallica, Jay-Z).  We relish the possibility.  (Richard Allen)

Release date 16 November

Available here soon

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