ulrich troyer / reviews / The Vegetable Orchestra - Green Album
ulrich troyer


The Vegetable Orchestra - Green Album
(Released 11/2018 on Transacoustic Research, Vienna)

„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.“
Richard Allen,a closer listen (US)

„The Vegetable Orchestra “has been exploring the sonic and musical potential of vegetables since 1998”. On Green Album there are ten musicians including recording and mix engineer Ulrich Troyer, who seems to be the musical director of sorts. Troyer has plenty of recording experience and also does a nice line solo in dub techno style. See his excellent recent album Dolomite Dub – reviewed in these pages by Nausika.

A vegetable “orchestra” – albeit one made up of musicians playing vegetables, rather than letting the vegetables organise everything themselves – is a brilliant idea, of course. You may think I’m being facetious, so for that I apologise, because the material presented here is strong and only very occasionally succumbs to the temptation of “playing it for laughs”; the pseudo-duck calls of “Internal Crisis”, for instance. Elsewhere, there is a lot of variety on offer – the organic techno of “Hyperroots” or Eastern vibes of “Schwarzmooskogel”. Putting the spades, forks, trowels and secateurs aside, “La Valse Ephemere” is an allotment grounation with something that sounds like a musical saw one minute, a distressed ocarina the next.

Other than Ulrich Troyer, the responsible parties are (deep breath) Jürgen Berlakovich, Susanna Gartmayer, Barbara Kaiser, Matthias Meinharter, Jörg Piringer, Richard Repey, Ingrid Schlögl, Tamara Wilhelm and Martina Winkler. Some individuals in this gathering are known as musicians, others are artists and some I couldn’t find any information about online, but one can assume they all share a love of unorthodox sound-making techniques. Indeed, they produce their sounds by manipulating unadulterated veges (celery, dried okra, aubergine, leeks), processed veg (grated onion, onion peel, smashed pumpkin), and instruments made from legumes (carrot marimba, celeriac guitar, leek violin), as well as more recognisable instruments constructed using a vegetable component (bean bag shaker). The production values here are high so everything is clear and sharp, and it is fun trying to imagine how the sounds were made.
Of course, the Vegetable Orchestra are doing nothing new as such; humans have been making acoustic sound devices and musical instruments out of natural objects for various purposes for thousands of years. What is interesting about Green Album is how many different ways these self-built instruments can be used. The sounds and music served up here are nutritional and tasty.“
Paul Khimasia Morgan, The Sound Projector (UK)

„A very long time The Vegetable Orchestra played in town and due to a short bit on Dutch TV the  venue sold out, which was a rare thing for said venue. I couldn't get in, even if I was a volunteer.  The second time the audience response was a bit less and I saw the group performing their music  on carrots, pumpkins, pickles and eggplants. Meanwhile water was boiled and several of the  instruments ended in the soup we ate afterwards. A lovely evening indeed. […] Throughout there is a lot of variation in approaches and with the pieces being brief and to the point this is a release with a  considerable amount of speed. Throughout this is a most lovely release indeed.
FdW, vital weekly 1156 (NL)

ACL 2018 ~ The Top 20 Albums of the Year!
"The Vegetable Orchestra may be the first roots band with ties to both a music tradition and ties, literally, to the ground. The group has been making music, exclusively with vegetables, spreading the gospel of edible instruments for 20 years and growing. A true fusion between modern classical compositions and West African folk, this band plays it all: bell pepper trumpets; leek violins; carrot kazoos; and more! And it’s dynamic; consider two tracks back to back: “Perfect Match” could almost be a Fraggle Rock rap battle gunning for Top 40, its pounding gourds ground helium vocals; the psychedelic “Fasern” rides a rock groove resembling Rafael Toral’s Space Quartet—like Toral’s music inventions, these instruments are also home-made, although The Vegetable Orchestra’s have the additional benefit of first being home-grown. Seeds not included."
Todd B. Gruel, a closer listen (US)

ACL 2018 ~ Top Ten Experimental
"Joining the respectable company of other ‘color’ albums (I am talking, obviously, of… Weezer’s Blue Album. Which other did you think I was talking about?), the Green Album shows the Vegetable Orchestra at its most comedic, which is to say, also, at its most serious. The experimentalism of tracks like “Perfect Match” grows out of an impulse to play, its quirky voice groans and electronics an integration of nature and artifice. It’s a practice of sound sculpture in a traditional sense, carving out the essential aural qualities of plants and reinforcing them with an avant-garde approach to electronic music. It verges on the wondrous strangeness of vanguardist outsider music like Moondog or bands like DVA: in short, it’s a grower."
David Murrieta Flores, a closer listen (US)

"For two decades this act had been creating the most obscure acoustic treatments based on, you guessed it, the sound made from vegetables! OK, I have to admit, this is my first introduction, and I am simply astonished by the plant kingdom and how these folks wield ’em. If you’ve not experienced someone blowing into pepper, twisting the skins of the simple tomato or using a pumpkin for percussion – you will experience something quite euphoric here. In fact, as my favorite sounds in the world emanate from traditional Gamelan I was pleasantly indulged here. They are inspired by Reich and Riley, but I’m inspired as a seasoned set of ears hearing something new for the first time. You need this natural anomaly in your library, in your life."

„Mijn favorieten zijn de tracks met uitgebreide 'fluitmelodieen': “Szemenye”, het behoorlijk mystiek klinkende “Schwarzmooskogel” en mijn absolute favoriet, het bezwerende “Hyperroots” met zelfs een soort middeleeuwse folktoets (toch als u een minimum aan fantasie hebt). Van de meer ritmisch percussieve tracks vind ik “Fasern” de max. Tracks als “Internal Crisis” en vooral slottrack “Bumpkin” doen me zelfs denken aan de soundtrack van een geflipte tekenfilm. Enfin, u had het al begrepen: deze bioloog is gewoon wildenthousiast over dit organische album met zijn unieke groentenklanken en -instrumenten en over het ganse hoogstoriginele concept van The Vegetable Orchestra en daarom eindigen we deze review met hetzelfde woord als we hem begonnen: geniaal!
Henk Vereecken, Darkentries (BE)

"Put on the circuit on November 17th, 2k18 via Transacoustic Research is the "Green Album", the latest musical outing by the infamous group known as The Vegetable Orchestra which has been using  and abusing dried and fresh vegetables for musical purposes over the course of nearly 20 years now. With the ensembles fourth album they're continuing on this path for sure, catering a vegetable menu comprised of 14 tracks over the course of 48 minutes. In this, they're touching both on genres like Contemporary Classical whilst also serving a grotesque, tongue-in-cheek take on Novelty and Phonk,  especially prevalent in tunes like "Perfect Match" and "Internal Crisis", or even bringing elements of feedback heavy HarshNoize to the table as done in "Fasern". With the epicly named "Schwarzmooskogel" The Vegetable Orchestra even manages to incorporate oriental mystique and klaxon'esque horn-resembling sequences into their Novelty Music, "Hyperroots" even leads to an excursion to MinimalHouse-infused dancefloors similar to Matthew Herbert's unique take on the sample-based edge of the genre, "Bamako" caters African-infused Tribal Funk and somehow evokes memories of Was Not Was' legendary "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" basslinewise as well as digs down into more fever'ish, yet cute, tripped out and funny tribalisms with "La Valse Ephemere". But these are only a few tunes mentioned, taken out of this extraordinary, unique and interesting album release. Check."

"Die Stücke schwanken zwischen sehr interessanten Klangexperimenten wie das Einstiegsstück, bei dem sich dem Hörer die Flötenklänge surreal um das Gehirn drehen, über irgendwie orientalisch klingenden Pop wie “Schwarzmooskogel“ bis hin zu Stücken die mit Hip-Hop-Rhythmen spielen. Die Handschrift des Elektronikers Ulrich Troyer ist auf alle Fälle auf dem kompletten Album spürbar, was für viele interessante Beats sorgt und für eine sehr sauber Aufnahme spricht. Mitunter gibt es auch sehr experimentelle Soundbilder, die nur mit wenigen Sounds und Klängen, wie von Gummibändern erzeugt, daherkommen, aber selbst diese stören den Flow des Albums nicht wirklich, da sie den Hörer zwar fordern, aber nicht überfordern. Sicherlich ist The green Album nichts für die nächste Elektronikparty, aber es zeigt durch einige durchaus schräge und ebenso interessante Sounds auf, was so alles machbar ist und bietet diese Klänge in einem durchaus durchhörbaren Konzept an."
Wolfgang Kabsch, musik-an-sich (DE)

"Per festeggiare I vent’anni di attività, l’orchestra più pazza d’Austria pubblica il suo quarto lavoro in studio. Il “Green Album”, Lp sostenuto anche da una campagna di crowdfunding (chiamata per il caso specifico “Krautfunding”) e appena uscito per Transacoustic Research Records, contiene 14 tracce della Vegetable Orchestra, un complesso di nove suonatori di... verdure. L’originalissima ricerca, porta a scavare nelle carote per ricavarne suoni simili a quelli del flauto, così come a percuotere zucche, aprire i fondi delle melanzane per ottenere delle specie di molle; i peperoni suonano come trombe, e tanto altro ancora. Le loro esibizioni live spesso si concludono con la bollitura dei propri “strumenti” musicali. Data l’impossibilità di ricondurre ogni sorprendente suono al giusto ortaggio, meglio descrivere ciò che si sente come fosse tutto ottenuto da strumenti tradizionali. Le possibilità sono davvero innumerevoli, e nonostante le tracce siano quattordici, c’è tantissima biodiversità e poche ripetizioni. Un’atmosfera sospesa nei fiati di carota di “Szemenye”, su armonie stridenti e intriganti come “This is the picture – Excellent Words” di Peter Gabriel. Ma tutto più arancione. O con i bassi profondi, perfetti per il dub, ottenuti in “Perfect Match”. Per i più metallari, amanti della distorsione, c’è “Fasern” con il suo porro strofinato (almeno questo l’ho sgamato, in un video su YouTube!). “Beet-L” vola su lidi psichedelici, così come l’allucinante “La Valse Ephémère”, con veri e propri lamenti umanoidi, provenienti da chissà quale tubero. “Schwarzmooskogel” regala un clima più arabeggiante, mentre “Fragilatore” fa uso del pianissimo, un volume molto basso grazie allo strofinamento di insalate. Particolarmente espressivo “Internal crisis”, con fiati che sembrano insetti, che dapprima dialogano, poi litigano, e infine soffrono, terribilmente. Un’agonia teatrale davvero credibile. “Hyperroots” sdrammatizza la situazione, creando un ritmo dance, e “Bamako” la rende sudamericana. “Reset” ricorda la pionieristica elettronica sperimentale anni ’50, ed è un altro imprevisto pugno allo stomaco, se non lo si prende col piglio ironico. “In V” ha un che di africano, con questi “legni” costanti e ipnotici. “Carrot Pano Drama” è un altro stupefacente gioco. Il titolo allude alle carote, ma è difficile immaginare, se non vedendolo, che questi soffi, questa polifonia di sirene, provenga da esse. Poi si inizia a distinguere il suono flautato, che abbiamo imparato ad accettare in precedenza. E suona prima come una battaglia di cerbottane in 8 bit, poi come una serie di rumori di bottiglie stappate, quelli ottenuti col dito in bocca, ma ad altezze diverse, ed armonizzati. Infine “Bumpkin” è un’esplorazione all’interno delle zucche. Ma rispetto a quel che si potrebbe immaginare, cioè ritmi percussivi come fossero di tamburi, ci troviamo miniaturizzati all’interno delle curcubitacee. Un vero e proprio pezzo ambient, immersi nelle pareti arancioni, mentre sentiamo come rumori di pialla o di sega tutt’intorno, come nell’atto di creare una zucca di Halloween. Che dire, The Vegetable Orchestra ha trovato una formula che permette ai nove creativi di sperimentare in molteplici modi, che dopo vent’anni non si sono ancora esauriti."
Gilberto Ongaro, Music Map (IT)

"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."
Stuart Bruce, Chain D.L.K. (US)

"Das erste Wiener Gemüseorchester The Vegetable Orchestra nimmt das „organische“, das handgemachte, selbstgeschnitzte und mundgeblasene der akustischen Electronica beim Wort. Ihre Instrumente sind vergänglich und essbar, Möhrenflöten, Kürbispercussion und Rettichmarimba mit Kontaktmikrofonen zu vorübergehendem neuen Leben zur Virtuosität gebracht. Das Green Album (Transacoustic Research, VÖ: 19. November) – ihr erst viertes Album in zwanzig Jahren – mischt die Gemüseorchester-typische von Minimal Music inspirierte Klöppel- und Blas-Electronica noch einmal neu auf. Rhythmisch und instrumentell aufgelockert erinnert das Green Album manches mal an die tolle halbimprovisierte Aufnahme des ultimativen Gassenhauers der Minimal Music, Terry Rileys In C, die Africa Express vor drei Jahren in Bamako, Mali aufgenommen haben."
Groove, 11/2018 (DE)

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