“It was always hard to maintain objectivity concerning Young Marble Giants. A bunch of people that you knew and liked, worked with, helped and encouraged were producing some of the greatest music of their time…and yet they seemed somewhat unenthusiastic and uninterested in promoting what they had to the world at large. Understandable, maybe, given the indifferent response elicited from the average Cardiff punter at the time.”
Any Young Marble Giants historical overview would be incomplete without mentioning the short-lived Z-Block record label. Formed in the late 1970s by a coterie of Welsh musicians and college students, Z-Block served as a citadel for Cardiff’s small but motivated independent music scene. The bands operated in a cooperative spirit, sharing gigs, equipment, and resources. Young Marble Giants’ first recorded appearance was on Z-Block’s Is The War Over? compilation LP, and those tracks got the band its Rough Trade record deal. When YMG split in late 1980, the individual band members turned to their Z-Block pals for support. Alison Statton formed Weekend with Spike Williams, formerly of Z-Block flagship band Reptile Ranch; the two continue to record and perform as Alison Statton & Spike. Stuart Moxham has occasionally drawn on Z-Block veterans for his Original Artists CDs, including his youngest brother Andrew.
Click on the below links and images to learn more about the label’s history and releases. Thanks to Andrew Tucker for providing almost all of this information.
History and origins
“Z-Block Records and Reptile Ranch: A Brief History.” By Andrew Tucker. Written exclusively for the Cardiffians Web site.
“A Brief History of Z-Block.” By Spike Williams. Spike’s own take on Z-Block’s short history appears on the Hyped2Death website.
“It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!” By Paul Rosen. Originally published in Twenty-First Century Anarchism: Unorthodox Ideas for a New Millennium (London: Cassell). Mentions Z-Block alongside Rough Trade as an example of independent music production.
Z-Block Records. The fabled label returns, “YOUR TURN NEXT” spirit intact!
Click on each graphic for more information on each release. All of them are, of course, long out of print. However, the Messthetics #104 CD compilation (Hyped2Death 2008) features most of Z-Block’s major players and is the easiest, most efficient way to hear this slice of Welsh postpunk history.
|ZA1: Is The War Over? compilation LP (1979)|
|Handwritten cost breakdown for Is The War Over?|
|Z1: Reptile Ranch “Lifeguard” 7″ (1979)|
|Z2: Reptile Ranch “Animal Noises” 7″ (1980)|
|Z3: Rough Cuts 4-song compilation 7″ (1980)|