Veggie continues Iain Ballamy’s journey through the aural nourishment of the band Food. This record of seven explorations from 2002 further distinguishes Food as a truly world class flavour of music that fuses the best of the United Kingdom and Norway: Iain Ballamy on saxophones, Arve Henriksen on trumpet and vocals, Mats Eilersten on bass and Tomas Stronen on drums and percussion. This album is a trip. Forty-one minutes seldom make us feel so distantly removed from ourselves.
This record shows a little more cerebral range than its predecessor, Organic & GM Food. Veggie’s opening clash of discordant electronics gives way to the outstanding tonal interplay between Ballamy and Henriksen on “Eat.” This collection restates this group’s fascination with the serenity of momentary trumpet in the context of free arrangement. We do not emote for long, though, before the sampling rambles of “Chickpea” set up Henriksen’s beautifully contrasting ambience. “Pie” offers a nice, plain acoustic break from the electro onslaught. “Nofood” provides the example of greatest cerebral extension.
Tomas Stronen may be a greater influence on this music than we can plainly hear. Much of the rhythmic base on Veggie is rooted in synth, so his acoustic playing is subsumed. This may not be a bad thing, but it is noticeable.
Food seems to be immersing itself more in the wide-ranging powers of sampling while trying to retain the magic of acoustic understatement. It works on Veggie. We joyfully imagine how this aural landscape was produced, although one feels that synthesizers may be taking unreasonable command of Food’s attention. A live appearance at the 2003 Vancouver International Jazz Festival confirms that three of the band’s four musicians have added sampling to each of their acoustic roles.
The influences of the Norwegian voice continue to fascinate Ballamy, as they should. European jazz lovers may be hearing a lot of this, but the Scandinavian signature is relatively undiscovered in North America. Western culture could benefit tremendously by ungluing itself from the video moment to allow some of this stuff to animate the individual mind.
Iain Ballamy’s Food has scored an avant-garde knockout with Veggie. This record so extends the music that we must now ask: will Food define a new, seemingly impossible ambient-synth world? Or will the fusion of Great Britain and Norway take us further down the road of contrast between acoustic and electric?
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