ALBUM REVIEW: The Gist – ‘Interior Windows’

CARDIFF’S Young Marble Giants subverted the revolution while the fires were still lit.

In an age when guitars were razor-loud and lyrics were spat, the Welsh four-piece turned it right back down to a female-led fragility. One album was recorded for Rough Trade before fragmentation and the group’s main protagonists went firing off in different directions: Stuart Moxham took the Giants’ minimalist architecture to extremes with The Gist, whose Rough Trade set, Embrace The Herd, proved a puzzlingly unusual dish for many. Sales were low; The Gist were dropped. 

Listen back now to 1982 single “Love At First Sight” and it sounds – well – pretty fresh and contemporary. Synth washes, low-rent percussion, a subtle R’n’B inflection; you’d hear this on 6Music and not blink if someone told you this was the latest bedroom wunderkid to hit the A playlist. In fact, Etienne Daho picked up the track, gave it a more fully 80s’ production chroming in 1986; and as “Paris Le Flore” it went on to sell seven figures. Lush were also to cover it. 

Stuart dusted down a number of tracks from The Gist archive and compiled them as Holding Pattern for a 2017 release. Where had he been? He just hadn’t pursued a new deal, married, had kids … but he had still been making music the whole time. 

Now Tiny Global Productions are issuing Interior Windows, billed as the “third and final compilation of tracks by The Gist”. It’s as cute and occasionally as odd a grab-bag of tunes and styles as you could hope for.

 Opener “Yanks” has the fragile bedroom introspection you’d expect. It has a sweet, ramshackle charm. So far, so expected; but second track, “Stones and Sunlight #2”, is a much weirder prospect. Its highlife guitar, echoey, girlie vocals and background chanting come across as the haunted offspring of Strip-Mine-era James and the weird echolalia of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich’s “Zabadak”, with a little J-pop too. Like I said: weird.

“This is Love” runs along the rails of a busily chorus-pedalled, characteristically 80s’ bass and choppy chords, with a smokey, lounge bar vocal; “Green Grass” is an instrumental sketch, in which a tiny Casio bossa holds up a strummed 12-string essay; “Public Girls”’ echoey guitar sounds like El curveballs Death By Chocolate. In fact Mike Alway would’ve been the perfect mentor for Moxham. Then “How To Be” is a sad, four-track, doowop plea. It’s quite a journey.

Interior Window is a proper lo-fi grab bag. By turns it’s synthpop, indiepop, cutey-pop, experimental; hell, at points, Interior Window even tacks its sails for Shuggie Otis.

If it was some bright, bearded young thing from out on the Ginger Line, Stuart Moxham would likely be hailed as a new pop prankster.

At least the 21st-century music globe eventually turned round to Stuart’s way of thinking, if maybe a little too late for the hip to truly make him a star. 

Interior Window will be released by Tiny Global Productions on download, CD and vinyl on July 17th

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