Link to Living Tradition Homepage





YOKO PWNO - Part Machine 

YOKO PWNO - Part Machine 
Skye Records SRCDX010  

I listened to Edinburgh-based Yoko Pwno's previous album, Artefacts, some years back, and it didn't excite me - but this one does. Perhaps it's the addition of Helen Le-Mar on flute and Gary Rafferty on tenor banjo - or perhaps it's the effect of COVID-enforced remote collaboration: either way, Part Machine seems much more polished and appealing. There are definite echoes here of Bongshang's 1990s "punk trad folk rock", and moments of Hawkwind-like "folk, strangeness and charm". A glittering strand of Celtic tradition is twisted in among the bleeps, the loops, the transforms of technology - and all the diodes down the left side - to put a recognisable face on this blend of folk, classical, prog rock and programming which is literally Part Machine.

Gary's banjo and beats from Ali Hutchison introduce Lissa Robertson's vocals on Tourmalet, a push-bike version of Bat Out Of Hell. Her vox loop enlivens Quorn Star, a sinuous instrumental featuring fiddle from Lissa and Lewis Williamson set in a sea of woodwind and wibbly-wobbly synths. Horace's hits back with a contemporary reel on attacking banjo, plus smooth sax from Calum Cummins. The Old Lightbulb is softer, gently pulsing, while Cent Tonnerres backs its stormy lyrics with an unrelenting rhythm and hypnotic melody lines. The classical side of Helen's flute leads Breakfast Of Champions between low menacing chords and loud jet engines: if the Borg Queen sang folk rock, this is what I imagine she would sound like. And so we reach the half-way point in this fascinating selection: still to come are rainforests, sultry Andalusian nights, glowing tributes to Edison in both jig time and Japanese technology, fiddlesticks and futuristic feline fancies. Superbly creative and skilfully executed, Part Machine has certainly opened my ears to Yoko Pwno. I even understand their name now.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 144 of The Living Tradition magazine