Tomato Flower


Tomato Flower’s *Construction* EP is a post-rock curiosity shop filled with wonky sonic knick-knacks, tchotchkes, and curios. Will Ainsley steps in gingerly

Have you ever entered a weird little antiques retailer in a town you’ve never been to before? The door will jingle loudly into a musty silence, the shopkeeper’s eyes might flicker uninterestedly over Dennis Taylor-style specs then back to a crossword, and the half-light from the window throws bizarro objects into hazy relief. With their winding pathways, unplaceable claustrophobia, and inward psychedelia, the songs on Tomato Flower’s Construction EP mark uncanny territory. 

Despite the drums usually sounding like drums, guitars like guitars, and keyboards like keyboards, the arrangements find a weirdness in the music’s content, it’s very construction. The lazily dissonant intervals that pepper opener ‘Bug’ deliver more freakiness than any reverse tape effect ever could. Likewise, the scrawny, staccato riff and stop-start dynamics in the eponymous fifth track make for an arrangement that winds and twists hypnotically. Each fractal interplay of instrument parts – mimicking, overlapping, looping, or even the odd moments of silence where the song almost forgets what it’s doing – marks an effective marshalling of everything at Tomato Flower’s disposal. 

This weirdness is not to say there aren’t certain touchstones. The album is often like a housetrained version of the Flying Luttenbachers or Beefheart’s wonkier phases, one that you could introduce to your grandmother. The devastating post-rock end passage of ‘Veteran’s Day Poppy’ from Trout Mask Replica (which predates Slint by about twenty-two years) is one particularly pertinent comparison to sections of Construction, with those jagged guitar lines that twitter and oscillate up and down the fretboard, frequent tempo shifts, and the impressionistic lyrics (“I want / dividends / dividends / for my house”), all in the space of a two-minute tune. 

This brevity, the sense that Construction is a quick dash around the various corners of Tomato Flower’s odd mind palace, means both you and the EP never outstay welcomes; it’s a quick browse then home. Forty minutes of this – the hairpin turns, the slightly glazed, shopping channel music aura – might be a bit much. 

Whereas when you listen to Beefheart or The Flying Luttenbachers you can almost hear them growling ‘make it weirder’, the songs on Construction feel like they’re been written with a real innocence or even naivety. There’s a youthful vigour that belies the weirdness. It’s like a mixture of Slint, Superorganism, and dare I say, The Shaggs, got together and tried to write some hits. The opening line of the EP is “I wanna hold your hand”, a line that has history as pop vernacular (see songs by The Beatles and Sparks). However, it’s delivered with this slightly dead-eyed, flat intonation. Similarly, the chorus vocals in ‘Aperecida’ are catchy, delivered with a charming hairbrush-microphone enthusiasm. Of course, this music is never going to be pop, but it certainly gives it a good crack. 

Construction is, in the end, a fitting summary of this project. You sense the joins, the way the guitars are fused at odd angles, the slightly haphazard assembly of moods. Though the floor may be creaky, and the windows dusty, the structure is still home to a selection of intriguing delights. 

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