Young Marble Giants are a post-punk band formed in Cardiff, Wales in 1978. Their music is constructed around the powerful and minimal instrumentation of brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham along with the vocals of Alison Statton.
History[edit source | edit]Edit
Young Marble Giants were formed from the ashes of 'True Wheel' which also included friends Matthew Davis and Louise Porter (later signed to EMI.) Stuart Moxham wrote the majority of the band's songs, and his writing was often deceptively simple-seeming, giving the YMG's classic work a fragile yet powerful quality. Their sound was characterised by Phil's prominent bass lines, Stuart's rhythm guitar (a mapleglo Rickenbacker 425) and Galanti electric organ lines and Statton's tentative vocals. Stuart Moxham's girlfriend Wendy Smith lent Stuart the money to buy the Rickenbacker. Smith, an art student in Cardiff (and later in Nottingham) at the time the YMG's were forming, photographed the band's US tour and also designed cover art for several singles and albums byWeekend and The Gist, Stuart Moxham's later project.
Very early in their existence, there was a fourth member of the band, Peter Joyce, who was a cousin of the Moxham brothers. Joyce was a telephone engineer and an electronics whizz, who had made his own synthesiser from a kit. This was a small touch-sensitive keyboard with an attache case-like box of circuitry, with several knobs and dials. It made sounds similar to Eno's synths in the early Roxy Music and Kraftwerk, who employed similar 'low-tech/high-tech' electronics. The YMGs used tape recordings of Peter's home-made drum machine (Roland didn't release the Boss DR-55, the first fully programmable drum machine, until 1979), since they had no desire to have a drummer. They were also interested in (by today's standards primitive) state of the art effects devices such as ring modulators and reverb units, with the emphasis always on simplicity.
Their first vinyl release was on the compilation LP Is The War Over? on Cardiff DIY label, Z Block Records, in October 1979. While signed to UK independent record label, Rough Trade Records the YMGs released two EPs, Final Day and Testcard, and one acclaimed and very influential album,Colossal Youth (a reference to the Early Greek 'Kouroi' marble statues, from which the YMGs took the inspiration for their name.)
The band toured and played in the US and Europe, and played in San Francisco, Vancouver, New York, Berlin. Touring companions included the band Cabaret Voltaire.
Musical influences included Eno, Kraftwerk, Neil Young, Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Can and others. The band were acquainted with Scritti Politti, the band of Cardiff nativeGreen Gartside, and ended up signed to the same label, Rough Trade Records. It was revealed in the 2003 book Journals that the band were, along with Scotland's The Vaselines, Kurt Cobain's favourite band.Courtney Love's band Hole covered the Young Marble Giants track "Credit In The Straight World"; a cover version of their song "The Man Amplifier" was included on The Magnetic Fields single "Why I Cry" as a b-side. Peter Buck of R.E.M. is another self-confessed fan of the YMGs. Stuart Moxham was a fan of Manchester guitarist Vini Reilly's early work, and was also very interested in Dub Reggae.
Post Young Marble Giants work[edit source | edit]Edit
After the band split up in 1980, Stuart Moxham formed The Gist, whose song 'Love at First Sight' became a major hit on the continent when covered by French pop singer Étienne Daho under the title 'Paris, Le Flore'. Following a very severe motorbike accident Stuart concentrated on home recording, which bore fruit in the album "Embrace The Herd,"(1982) again on Rough Trade, and his first CD album "Signal Path" (1992) on the Chicago-based Feel Good All Over label, before fans persuaded him to enter the studio again. The result was the album 'Random Rules' (1993), which featured friends old and new, such as Spike (guitar & viola), younger brother Andrew (drums) and London-based French songwriter Louis Philippe (keys & arrangements). A band was formed to perform Stuart's new material, which gigged, albeit briefly, in France and the UK. Another album, 'Cars in the Grass', followed. Stuart had also been recording in the USA (the album 'Fine Tuning' and six tracks on the album "Barbara Manning Sings With The Original Artists"(1993)), where he has acquired a small but devoted fanbase. Now based in the West Country, Stuart is still writing songs faithful to the deceptively refined ethos of his first band. A new album, 'The Huddle House', recorded as a duet with Louis Philippe, with whom he's regularly performed over the last five years, was released on Wonder Records in May 2007.
Alison Statton, Spike, (a guitarist from South Wales), and Simon Emmerson (later of Working Week and Afro Celt Sound System) formed Weekend (with Phil Moxham on bass) and several respected jazz musicians including Larry Stabbins, Harry Beckett and Keith Tippett.
In 1989 – 1990, Alison Statton worked with Ian Devine, the former guitarist of the post-punk group Ludus. They released two records together, The Prince of Wales and Cardiffians. Blaine L. Reininger ofTuxedomoon plays accordion on the record. The music was predominantly composed by Ian Devine, but Statton's distinctive vocals and influence are clear on many of the songs, and anticipate the sounds and musical ideas she would later explore with Spike.
In early 2003, Statton and the Moxham brothers reunited for a BBC Radio Wales radio special. They performed one new song, "Alright," on this special. The band is currently preparing to make further new recordings, but no date has yet been announced for the release of this new material.
There was a 'reunion concert' in Hay-on-Wye on 27 May 2007, part of the Hay-on-Wye Festival, 2007. From Stuart Moxham's website: "Young Marble Giants reform for a one-off celebration of Domino Records' re-release of their seminal album 'Colossal Youth', combined in a 3 CD package with the Lo-Fi, private reference recordings of the 'Salad Days' album and the otherwise unobtainable Peel Sessions. A unique opportunity to see these much-missed masters of dark, minimalist DIY art rock in the glorious surroundings of the land of their fathers."
They also played a show for the BB-Mix Festival in Boulogne Billancourt, just outside Paris, on 28 October 2007. The band has performed regularly since then, including appearances at the Primavera Sounds Festival in May 2008 and at the Hebbel Am Ufer (HAU) theatre in Berlin in January 2009. The YMGs played their entire Colossal Youth album at All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, Somerset, UK, on 9 May 2009 – they have been chosen by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel for a return performance at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that he will curate in March 2012 in Minehead, England.
Discography[edit source | edit]Edit
- Colossal Youth (February 1980)
- Reached No. 3 on the UK Indie Chart, No. 20 NZ
- "Final Day" (June 1980)
- Reached No. 6 on the UK Indie Chart
- Testcard EP (March 1981)
- Reached No. 2 on the UK Indie Chart
- Peel Sessions (1991)
- Salad Days (2000)
- Compilation of demo versions from Colossal Youth and Testcard
- Live at the Hurrah! (2004)