Dub/Ska/Reggae / RnB / Jazz Related Rock / Eclectic Fusion • United States
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MATERIAL picture
One of the most high-profile projects of the endlessly prolific bassist and producer Bill Laswell, Material pioneered a groundbreaking fusion of jazz, funk, and punk that also incorporated elements of hip-hop and world music well before either's entrance into the mass cultural consciousness. Formed in 1979, the first Material lineup consisted of Laswell, multi-instrumentalist Michael Beinhorn, and drummer Fred Maher, all three staples of the downtown New York City underground music scene. The group, plus Kramer and a few others backed Gong's Daevid Allen during his New York visit, resulting in the album About Time by New York Gong. After Material's debut LP under their own name, Temporary Music, the group's ranks swelled to include figures ranging from Sonny Sharrock to Henry Threadgill to Fred Frith, additions which yielded 1981's superb Memory Serves. A guest list running the gamut from Nile Rodgers to a then-unknown Whitney Houston distinguished the avant read more...
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MATERIAL Discography

MATERIAL albums / top albums

MATERIAL Memory Serves album cover 3.52 | 3 ratings
Memory Serves
Eclectic Fusion 1981
MATERIAL One Down album cover 3.25 | 2 ratings
One Down
RnB 1982
MATERIAL Red Tracks album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Red Tracks
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1985
MATERIAL Seven Souls album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Seven Souls
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1989
MATERIAL The Third Power album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Third Power
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1991
MATERIAL Hallucination Engine album cover 4.41 | 4 ratings
Hallucination Engine
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1994
MATERIAL Material With William S. Burroughs ‎: The Road To The Western Lands album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Material With William S. Burroughs ‎: The Road To The Western Lands
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1998
MATERIAL Intonarumori album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1999
MATERIAL Access Beginnings album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Access Beginnings
RnB 2018

MATERIAL EPs & splits

MATERIAL Temporary Music 1 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Temporary Music 1
Jazz Related Rock 1979
MATERIAL Ciquri / Detached album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Ciquri / Detached
Jazz Related Rock 1981
MATERIAL Reduction / A.O.A. album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Reduction / A.O.A.
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1981
MATERIAL American Songs album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
American Songs
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1981
MATERIAL Temporary Music 2 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Temporary Music 2
Jazz Related Rock 1981
MATERIAL I'm The One (Dance Versions) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
I'm The One (Dance Versions)
RnB 1982
MATERIAL Time Out album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Time Out
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1983
MATERIAL For A Few Dollars More album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
For A Few Dollars More
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1983
MATERIAL Playin' With Fire album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Playin' With Fire
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1991
MATERIAL Reality album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1991
MATERIAL Mantra album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1993
MATERIAL Axiom Ambient - Lost In The Translation album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Axiom Ambient - Lost In The Translation
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1994
MATERIAL Eternal Drift album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Eternal Drift
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1994

MATERIAL live albums

MATERIAL Live In Japan album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live In Japan
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1993
MATERIAL Live From Soundscape album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live From Soundscape
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1994

MATERIAL demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

MATERIAL re-issues & compilations

MATERIAL Temporary Music Compilation album cover 2.50 | 2 ratings
Temporary Music Compilation
Jazz Related Rock 1980
MATERIAL Secret Life album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Secret Life
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1986
MATERIAL Temporary Music (1979-81) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Temporary Music (1979-81)
Jazz Related Rock 1992
MATERIAL The Best Of album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of
Dub/Ska/Reggae 1998
MATERIAL Reacted album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Eclectic Fusion 2018

MATERIAL singles (0)

MATERIAL movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)


MATERIAL Memory Serves

Album · 1981 · Eclectic Fusion
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Crawling out of the sludge of NYC's post-punk no wave scene, Material starts to show a lot more sophistication on this, their first full length album after three slightly primitive EPs. Band leader Bill Laswell seems more than eager to start leaving behind his less ambitious band mates as he starts to bring on guests from the 'real' jazz world. Some of the top names from New York's early 80s avant-garde jazz scene are here including Henry Threadgill, Fred Frith, Sonny Sharrock and Billy Bang. Likewise, Laswell doesn't waste any time utilizing his new part-time band mates to take his music into territories he couldn't explore with Material's original three piece lineup. In particular Bill reveals for the first time his deep attachment to the mid-70s music of Miles Davis. For a long time the public had acted as if Miles had dropped off the planet after recording Bitches Brew. Much credit is due to Laswell and other 80s punk/jazzers for recognizing the value of Miles' excursions into avant-garde psychedelic rock and for incorporating Miles' innovations into their music. In particular, the song 'Dissapearing' sounds like an outright Miles tribute with the first part of the song coming from 'Agharta', and the second half from 'On the Corner'. Elsewhere throughout this album Material seems to have a lot of fun ripping through a variety of styles in a way that hadn't been heard in the world of jazz fusion in a long while. In the early 80's mainstream fusion had become terribly mundane and safe and was not much more than background music for yuppie diners. NYC bands such as Material and others with avant-garde and post-punk backgrounds were bringing a new life and spunk, as well as an irreverent sense of humor to jazz fusion. A couple songs on here are almost a mix of avant-garde funk and goofy hillbilly music, something that would have been unheard of in the overly sophisticated world of mainstream fusion post late-70s.

There is some 'material' on here that is less than inspiring. Laswell and his gang still felt obligated to throw on one kind of punky funk number with vocals that are less than professional, as well as a number of noisy experimental cuts that drag on a little too long. In some of the more experimental numbers you can definitely hear Fred Frith's influence via his work with Laswell in Massacre.

This album was a huge breath of fresh air and a bold punky slap in the face of mundane overly slick jazz fusion in the early 80s. I don't know if all that translates these days, but it still has some fun songs, and fun isn't a word you hear associated with jazz fusion too often.

MATERIAL Temporary Music Compilation

Boxset / Compilation · 1980 · Jazz Related Rock
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So this is where it all begins for Bill Laswell. Although in a few short years he would be rubbing elbows on a regular basis with greats like Herbie Hancock, Bernie Worrell and Ginger Baker, this first Material album (a combination of their first two EPs) finds Laswell working within the humbling confines of a three member group (counting himself even) and no massive V.I.P guest list. Material, at this point, was still part of that early 80s 'No New York' jazz/funk influenced post punk scene that also brought us Lydia Lunch, James White and the Blacks, Defunkt and various offshoots from Ornette's Prime Time band, and those punky roots show. Although the expected Laswell influences from funk, avant-garde, jazz, and techno are here, on this first Material album everything is still filtered through a harsh punk ascetic that matched their surroundings at the time. Although kind of dated and obscure by today's standards, I still find a lot of music on here to be kind of 'fun'. Side B opens with the albums two best songs, both feature driving punk- funk/techno rhythms topped with pseudo Frippesque melodies from guitarist Michael Beinhorn. Both of these two tracks remind me of Fripp's post-punk/exotica instrumental group, League of Gentlemen. I've always thought that Fripp's gentlemanly band was influenced by the early 80s NYC artsy post-punk scene, so here is your classic cross- influence? ..maybe. Side B closes with 'Secret Life', a virtual Kraftwerk clone, but a very good one.

Continuing backwards from side B, side A opens with some OK harsh punky funk that sounds like Bowie's 'Fame' without the vocals. From there this side descends into mediocrity with an odd Fred Frithish avant-garde funk number followed by two rock numbers with harsh scratchy 'vocals'. Hard to believe that ultra-sophisticated world beats entrepreneur Bill Laswell was once an uncouth 'punk rocker', but side A closer, 'Slow Murder', will be the telling document of that dirty secret for the ages.

This is a great album for Material and Bill Laswell fans to use for tracing the roots of their hero. Here his beginnings as a NYC punk with jazz/funk/dub tastes and caviar schemes are all very clear and fun to listen to. But, if this is all new to you and you are seeking the best that Material has to offer, then check out 1993's 'Hallucination Engine'.

MATERIAL Hallucination Engine

Album · 1994 · Dub/Ska/Reggae
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Although Bill Laswell's work can often sound phoned-in from some massive cookie cutter factory where the latest in hip-hop, world beat and ambient techno get diced and spliced into some trendy name and pre-fab packaging, that's not even remotely the case with this release in 1993 under his band name of Material. Hallucination Engine has plenty of something that is often missing from Laswell projects, memorable melodies. Unlike much of Laswell's other projects, Engine is full of powerful ancient melodies that seem to carry the emotional weight of the centuries. Likewise this album also stands apart from his usual output because it sounds like he spent a lot more time with this one. Although Laswell cuts almost always have that irresistible 'world groove' to them, on this album Bill takes the extra step and care and surrounds those grooves with excellent arrangements full of breaks, alternate melodies and texture change-ups. Side one contains four somewhat similar down tempo tunes that blend together in a deep orchestrated chill symphony that carries the somber feel of an ancient religious ceremony. Each cut favors middle-eastern tinged violin or rustic open-tuned guitar melodies framed by gorgeous electronic textures and drop-beat sections where the always present ambience takes over. The dub tune Ruins in particular has a lengthy ambient section in which beautiful cascading chord sequences drift by in a sentimental look back to the hey day of late 60s progressive rock when modulating string/choir synthesizers ruled the land. This side closes with Shadows of Paradise in which Nicky Skopelis' post-rock styled open guitar textures set the mood and intertwine with Wayne Shorter's classic tenor lines.

Side two opener, Words of Advice, breaks the reverent mood with some great spoken word from the very irreverent William Burroughs. Definitely tongue in cheek, Words has one of those classic old school gangsta grooves like The Soprano's Theme or Ice T's You Played Yourself. Burroughs is the mac daddy here and he's stepped out of the limo to lay down some grim warnings about boy/girl fights, prostitutes and 'religious SOBs' who want your money. Despite the emotional change of pace, this is my favorite cut on the album and is one of those classics that will transcend it's time if it is not forgotten. Laswell follows this changeup with more fun in the form of a Indo-ragga/hip-hop remake of Weather Report's classic Cucumber Slumber.

After this change of pace, the last two cuts on side two return to the deeply reflective and almost sentimental nature of side one to great effect. The fact that Laswell can effectively blend these last two tunes with Coltrane's classic Naima says much for how much emotional weight Bill's music is carrying. I've never heard anyone else make an effective cover of Naima before, much less have the ability to bridge it's stark emotional quality with music of their own making. Once again the ambient music surrounding his take on Naima recalls the early days of sentimental progressive rock keyboard orchestrations.

This is an incredible album and stands far above Bill Laswell's usual paint by number world dub groove whatever. Most of this album is as serious and sobering as a requiem, yet there is that one cut where William Burrough's drops in with a sly wink and some sage advice about prostitutes and flim flam artists. Excellent and very moving album, highly recommended.

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