Though lesser-known than Young Marble Giants’ output, the sole LP from Stuart Moxham’s The Gist is an essential entry in the great canon of English post-punk. As the principle composer in Young Marble Giants, Moxham honed minimal songwriting to maximal effect with the help of early electronic experimentation. He formed The Gist shortly before Young Marble Giants’ dissolution to realize experiments in sound outside his primary group’s mold and feature friends from such bands as Essential Logic and Swell Maps. The Gist yielded several singles and Embrace the Herd, originally released in 1982 on Rough Trade and featuring fellow Giants Alison Statton and Phillip Moxham along with Epic Soundtracks.
Recorded at home by Moxham, Embrace the Herd is a venerable instance of post-punk liberation to indulge every stylistic whim. With a four-track reel-to-reel, tape echo machine and menagerie of instruments, he veers from the beautifully understated and evocative “Love at First Sight” (with a timeless, quasi-R&B chorus) and the gleaming pop progression on “This Is Love” to instrumentals like “Far Concern” and “Fretting Away,” the latter evoking Young Marble Giants’ sparse but evocative work on Colossal Youth. Moxham sometimes dons a prominently mixed baritone, coos soulfully elsewhere and defers to Statton’s inimitable voice on “Clean Bridges.”
The fragmented and disparate ideas of Embrace the Herd expose the anatomy of bedroom DIY song-craft for listeners to revel in. Moxham’s liner notes express humble amazement at fans’ continued interest in this body of work, but even a casual listen explains why Embrace the Herd perseveres.
“[A]n intriguing debut.... I keep returning to the Herd... great ideas and a welcome spirit.” —Melody Maker
“It has the feeling of firesides, Welsh cottages and shaggy dogs.... Mind you, making a synthesizer sound rustic is quite a notable achievement.” —NME
“... the mannered folk whimsy of Jake Thackray collides with the intellect of Brian Eno in George Clinton’s back garden.” —Mojo
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