Thursday, September 27, 2007

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

One-off albums hold a mythical place in pop music history. A band appears, seemingly from thin air, and burns hard and bright before quietly disintegrating. Their music is left to stand on its own, pure and untouched by the excess that success often breeds.

Formed in 1978, Young Marble Giants released one album, 1980's Colossal Youth, and a handful of other tracks. Stuart Moxham, the band's principle songwriter plays stiff palm-muted guitar lines and swirling organ leads, while his brother Philip's bass lines often carry the song's melody. Listening to Alison Statton's detached vocals it is hard to decide whether they are a practiced cool or simple naivety. Without an interest in hiring a drummer, the band's backbeat is carried by a homemade drum machine created by the Moxhams' telephone engineering cousin, Peter Joyce. The machine lays down simple cardboard box rhythms that allow the music space to breath. In fact, open space often occupies these songs as much as the music itself.

Often tagged with the "post-punk" descriptor, the sound of YMG has none of the jagged guitar lines or danceable rhythms of a band such as Gang of Four. Instead, this is minimal music that is beautiful in its simplicity. Highly recommended.

Earlier this month, Domino Records released a 3-disc edition of Colossal Youth stateside. This expanded set includes the Testcard EP, the 1979 Final Day single, the Salad Days demo collection, a compilation track, and a 1980 John Peel session.


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