Saturday, February 13, 2010

Automate - (2003)

Experimental music is not always about pushing music — and the definition of music — into new territories. Occasionally it consists of making conventional music with unconventional means. After a casual listen, you might think that Automate is just another album of glitch electronica, with moments of house and an episode of noise. Wrong. This is the Vegetable Orchestra and there is not a single synthesizer, sampler, or computer involved. Automate features serious musicians imitating electronic music by playing amplified vegetables. The most natural way to use a vegetable (besides eating it) is as a percussion instrument, so most of the music here is beat-driven, tiny beats amplified by contact microphones. Microtonal radish marimbas provide the "looped" staccato patterns often used as melodies in electronic music (except they are not looped; everything is played for real). Various shakers and scratching effects with contact mics are used to recreate synth effects. And a blender becomes the drone in "Urgem X" (the orchestra allows the use of kitchen utensils and appliances too). There is a strong novelty or comedy aspect to the whole project, but the music stretches beyond that. It is surprisingly well written and arranged, daring, challenging, and often surprising. The cover version of Kraftwerk's "Radioaktivität" is hilarious, but the microsound mock-up "Automate" can fool more than a few Kim Cascone aficionados. And it is not for vegetarians only. I could not believe it either. Check it out for the novelty of it.

And the bands website....

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