The novelty value on this release is clearly strong on this one, and despite being established for almost twenty years and this being their fourth album, the ensemble will still command plenty of online column inches for the sheer quirkiness of ‘vegetable sound’ and the ten-piece’s ability to perform complex instrumental works solely out of instruments made out of vegetables.
But beyond that, is this a release that you’d willingly listen to for more than just novelty value? Yes, it is. Compositionally it’s not ground-breaking but across 14 tracks and 48 minutes there’s plenty to enjoy even if you ignore the music’s vegetable roots (that’s the only intentional pun I’m doing).
While some pieces, like “Perfect Match” and the decidedly Clangers-esque “Carrot Pano Drama”, are slightly cheesy and squelchy, with recorder-style squeaky veggie woodwind and more processed-sounding sounds playing up the novelty value, the majority of the pieces here are genuine and worthwhile experimental composition works that stand out because if you didn’t know how the sounds were being produced, you might think it was some strange hybridisation of organic instrument and synthesis. “In V” riffs off the concept of Terry Riley’s “In C” but instead of a comedy version or pastiche, what you get is a rich composition in its own right, with its own distinctive texture.
“Hyperroots” is a highlight and also a strong potential crossover track, being quite poppy in structure and bizarrely almost club-friendly. The rhythmic progress and relentlessness of “Beet-L” spans to span both 60’s electronic experimentation and proto-techno while the curt percussive layering of “Internal Crisis” initially suggests what Art Of Noise’s “Daft” may have sounded like if they’d limited themselves solely to the local farmers’ market for inspiration before devolving into more panicking and theatrical territory.
Playful at times, and not shying away from the sheer silliness of what they’re doing, nevertheless underneath the novelty the Vegetable Orchestra is a musically valid and interesting listen.