Ask Not for Whom the Bell Pepper Tolls.
US: 26 Oct 2010
UK: 26 Oct 2010
The sleeve notes to Onionoise include an amusing list of fresh vegetable instruments used for each track. The record is no spoof, though, for the Vegetable Orchestra has spent 13 years “exploring the sonic and musical potential of vegetables”. I don’t know if they attract large audiences, but really, who wouldn’t pay good money to see someone play a celery cello or a carrot xylophone?
Even with the notes, deducing which instrument is making what sound is a challenge. As far as I can tell, the mouth instruments such as carrot recorder and radish bass flute produce a pleasing vibrating tone, although not as impressive as the didgeridoo-esque hum of the “turntable with leek pickup” set against the ethereal lament of a carrot breeze flute. My favorite piece on the album is “Krautrock”. Featuring nothing but “distorted cabbage” this track has a depth and power more usually associated with the amplified drilling and welding antics of Aufgehoben.
Less satisfying is the maddening, suffocating rattle of “Pocket Stampede”, which to me seems the aural equivalent of being closely pursued through long grass by a pestering gang of radical vegans armed with rain-sticks and damp seaweed. Elsewhere, one or two sections on Onionoise resemble electronic dance music, particularly “Transplants” with the thumping propulsion of “pumpkin bass drum and aubergine mallets”.
The temptation is to wonder if the Vegetable Orchestra have tried okra comb with rice paper, and if people who dislike their concerts throw tomatoes? Joking aside, the group are neither comedians nor vegetarians and have long ago moved on from trying to emulate the sound of more traditional instruments. Their vegetable instruments are created using drills, knives, and kitchen implements, or used without any preparation. The leek violin, for instance, is ready-made, whereas the cucumberphone needs a lot of work.
This is a group I’d like to see on stage. Apparently, after some performances the vegetable instruments are cooked into a stew or soup and shared with the audience. That might go well with a bottle of Chicha beer (made using human saliva) but I’m sticking to a pork pie with mustard and a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.
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