The Vegetable Orchestra – Onion Noise

A fairly thin stew from rich ingredients, I’m afraid.

OK, here we have it:  an LP (the band’s third), made from the sounds vegetables make. This is the kind of record music critics are supposed to like and I suppose that the fact that I’m reviewing it shows it did tickle my fancy. And on listening chunks of it isn’t half bad at all. But, but…

I’ve seen The Vegetable Orchestra twice, once in a very hippy-dippy art gallery opening in Leiden, the other time about 10 years ago in Den Haag, an event considerably enlivened by the fact that my drunken mate ate one of their “instruments” mid-performance. They have a very professorial “vibe” (blokes in lab coats, twiddling wires and things) and that outlook migrates into their recorded music.

It would be very easy to write up a review based on just saying, wow, they play a cabbage on this one: (actually they do, they play “distorted cabbage” on the cheekily named and slightly deranged Krautrock). I mean, the overall idea is a fine one: the conceit that vegetables can make such multi-dimensional, individual and sensual sounds is fabulous. It’s just that, at points in this record there’s not a lot of, well, (for want of a better term), actual music for the listener to latch onto. Or personality for that matter. This thought is thrown sharply into relief by the moments where the tracks do have some structure and direction: the opening track Scoville is an enjoyably shifting collage that reminded me of Organisation’s Tonefloat, whilst Nightshades lays down a marvellously slow burning groove. Regan and Brazil also have something to offer in terms of direction and presence.

But by the middle section, the whole thing becomes a parade of interesting noises. You would like to see them push their Muse and vision like other exponents of non-instrument music do, such as Matmos or Matthew Herbert or Scott Walker, however annoying and screamingly pretentious those three artists can be at times.

A fairly thin stew from rich ingredients, I’m afraid.