Monday, March 07, 2005

You're haunting me because I let you

In an Onion interview, Merritt refers to Distant Plastic Trees as "...a small record, intentionally small, influenced by the Young Marble Giants, an electro-pop record." Small is exactly how I would also describe the sole (proper) album from the misleadingly-named Young Marble Giants, Colossal Youth, made in 1979 by three Cardiffians in the post-punk era. For some reason, I imagine the members huddling around a space heater and a tape recorder in a shed in the woods; then they bury their cassette in a tiny glazed pot in the ground and make a kettle of tea. Colossal Youth employs very sparse instrumentation: a crisp bass, a feeble drum machine, and either a warbly organ or a hand-muted electric guitar. Its simplicity gives it an unplaceable, timeless sound - something unmatched even to this day - and many tracks on Trees indeed take a cue from its basic structures and arrangements, like "Smoke Signals" in particular.

Stephin has mentioned that he admires the way Susan Anway can sound happy, sad, or blank, while he laments that he can only sound sad - and would like to be able to sound blank. The lead singer of Young Marble Giants, Alison Statton, is one probable blueprint for Merritt's desired singing style. In this interview, YMG member Stuart Moxham says:

"It's really weird, because what happens is I write the melody and sing it, and then Alison sings it back. But when I sing it, it tends to be emotional because the lyrics are mine. Alison on the other hand is really laid back and unemotional sounding. It's a strange paradox, a disinterested voice singing about something emotional."

And in this interview with Future Bible Heroes, Claudia Gonson says:

"I try to sing in a way similar to Astrud Gilberto, or Alison Statton of the Young Marble Giants, where you use your voice more as an instrument and it’s less about expression than tone."

The first track is "The Man Amplifier" off Colossal Youth, a song that the Magnetic Fields covered for the b-side of the "Why I Cry" 7 inch single, which was intended for a Young Marble Giants tribute album that never materialized. (In the forementioned interview, Stuart also comments: "Philip [Moxham] wrote ['The Man Amplifier'] after seeing a programme about a robot you strap yourself into and it amplified your movements, so that if you want to pick your nose and it isn't programmed to do it, it'll pull your head off.") The second track is the demo version of "N.I.T.A." from Salad Days, possibly the most hauntingly memorable YMG song of all. I dare say that Salad Days is strictly for fans, but everybody should definitely own Colossal Youth. Also, note that Stuart Moxham sang lead vocals on the 6ths song "Yet Another Girl," which was only included on the Wasps' Nests 6 6/6" boxed set.


Blogger michael said...

this is the best idea ever.

ps-don't mind the lack of blogger under this was something i started for a website but then decided not to use

1:26 PM  
Blogger michael said...

also, my name is bryan...not michael

1:28 PM  
Blogger Ernest said...

Thanks for the encouraging words!

11:07 PM  

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