SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #260: PROJECT A-KO

From The Line Of Best Fit website, posted by Simon Tyers on 17 May 2009:-

“That Projekt A-Ko are reminiscent of Urusei Yatsura isn’t the wildest statement to make.

In fact, bar one member, they are Urusei Yatsura, the Glasgow noiseniks who would have easily qualified as one of the 90’s best British hidden treasures had they not scraped into the top 40 on one occasion. Over the course of three great albums, in uniting the fanzine glitter kids and the pro-American wing that thrived on loud distorted Dinosaur Jr/Sonic Youth dissonance, they were arguably, looking at the likes of Johnny Foreigner and Dananananaykroyd combining much the same elements today, ten years ahead of their time.

And now we’re ten years on from their existence. Indeed, for a good percentage of the album the SST Records-recalling buzzsaw hooks given the abrasive lo-fi treatment could have come straight from 1996’s We Are Urusei Yatsura. If there is a difference it’s that the change of singer and the passage of time has brought a less malevolent tone, Fergus Lawrie more the Lou Barlow to the long-lost Graham Kemp‘s J Mascis.

‘Supertriste Duxelle’ – they still like cryptic song titles too – rides on a bed of streamlined alt-rock that recalls the long-lost Seafood upon which Lawrie and Elaine Graham harmonise between scorching mini-solos and feedback breaks before the whole tone changes into Wedding Present distorted jangle.

‘Molten Hearts’ could have come from Pavement’s Slanted And Enchanted, while ‘Here Comes New Challenger’ and ‘Ichiro On Third’ could almost qualify as pop, albeit pop bent well out of shape, with their harmonies and deceptively simple progressions were it not for the occasional departures into Thurston Moore guitar abuse. You’re similarly reminded at times of My Bloody Valentine, who also took male-female vocals and overdriven noise-pop in their own direction.

They retain the capacity of surprise too. ‘Scintilla’ slows things down to a stately march in the middle, if one scored by Yo La Tengo, while ‘Yoyodyne (Scintilla II)’ goes even further. Acoustic fingerpicking! Piano! Field recordings of children playing! STRINGS! And it doesn’t even sound jarring, much less overreaching to show their maturity away from the overdriven screech, just an almost playful reflective mood that carries on to the stripped back closer ‘Don’t Listen To This Song’, both together acting as an emotionally broken comedown from Yoyodyne‘s previous surges.

Despite all the use of comparison points above Projekt A-Ko are no slavish regurgitators of too-cool-for-school references, but a band who have the capacity to take twisted pop harmonies and whack them well out of shape with the lessons learned from their influences. In truth a little more dynamic variation from the template of hook-harmony-Mascis solo in the latter stages wouldn’t have gone amiss and there’s little left over of the attractive element of imminent peril the old band’s last album Slain By Urusei Yatsura gave off, but when it’s at its best the way the melodies and noise intersect melt away the best part of a decade and it truly is as if business is as usual if in reduced circumstances.”

JC adds….

A short time ago, in the posting by KT on Late of The Pier, I added some thoughts in the comments section about the difficulties in having enough time to actually listen to all the music out there.  The Project A-Ko album, Yoyodyne, is a perfect example of what I’m on about.

I was actually given a free copy of it by Fergus Lawrie many years ago on the back of the old version of the blog saying some very nice things about Urusei Yatsura, something which has continued with the new Vinyl Villain as evidenced by the ICA I lovingly compiled last October.  I listened to it once, thinking that there was a lot there to pick up on, but for whatever reason(s) I never ever got back for a subsequent listen.

Noticing that Project A-Ko were due to come up on this alphabetical run-through of Scottish singers and bands, I dug it out again.  And then I gave it a third listen via the headphones while out walking.  And now, 12 years too late, I’m giving it the time and attention it richly deserves….and, of course, it just means that other music, particularly the newly released stuff, finds itself going into a pile that will take time to sort through.  It’s never-ending.

mp3: Project A-Ko – Supertriste Duxelle

I’m delighted to say that all 13 tracks on Yoyodyne can be found on Bandcamp, as indeed are five other songs that were not included on the album.  Click here for more.

JC

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