Young Marble Giants
The Young Marble Giants were a Cardiff post-punk band. A trio formed in 1978, their music was constructed around the powerful and minimal instrumentation of brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham supporting the naive untrained voice of Alison Statton.
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 uniquely fragile yet powerful quality. Centered around a weird mix of Philip's steel-hawser bass, Stuart's punchy rhythm guitar (played on a rare John Lennon style blonde Rickenbacker) and haunting, rhythmic Galanti electric organ lines, with Statton's vocals tentatively suspended in the space between them, their sound was unlike anything anyone had heard before. Stuart Moxham's girlfriend Wendy Smith lent Stuart the money to buy the Rickenbacker. Wendy, an art student in Cardiff (and later in Nottingham) at the time the YMG's were forming, also designed cover art for several singles and albums by Weekend and the Gist, Stuart Moxham's later project. Wendy also accompanied the band on their tour of the US, and shot a set of seminal photographs of the band.
Very early in their existence, there was a fourth member of the band, Peter Joyce, Phil and Stuart Moxham's cousin. 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 native Green 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". 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
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 'Café de 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. Interestingly, Blaine L. Reininger of Tuxedomoon 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.
Philip Moxham went on to play bass for The Communards and Everything But The Girl, Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn's group. He features on their fourth album, Idlewild.
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-Wyeestival, 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 the 28th October 2007.