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Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States

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Material picture
Material biography
Founded in NYC, USA in 1978 - Disbanded in 1999

Material was born out of the ashes of Daevid Allen's New York Gong which featured, along with legendary East Village bassist Bill Laswell, one-time Herbie Hancock collaborator Michael Beinhorn, guitarist Cliff Culteri, & Lou Reed collaborator & Massacre drummer Fred Maher.

Having embarked on a small tour as New York Gong, the band decided to call it quits after growing tired of European life while touring France. Upon returning to the states they opted to continue playing shows & releasing work under the title Material, a name adapted from the song Materialism which Laswell & Culteri wrote for the New York Gong album About Time.

From '79 to early '81 they released 3 EP's; Temporary Music 1, Temporary Music 2 and American Music, that explored NYC no wave with prominent funk leanings. It wasn't until late '81 that Material's jazz side began to really show. It was at this time that they released their first full length album Memory Serves which incorported a host of guest musicians & extensive jazz instrumentation.

With the personnel constantly revolving, Material continued to release albums throughout the 80's. By '91 Laswell was the only remaining original member, & it was at this time that he began to use Material as a vehicle to explore various nu jazz, fusion, & world beat projects. In '93 Material released their most fusion-oriented album Hallucination Engine which featured key fusion players such as Wayne Shorter of Weather Report, Shakti violinist L. Shankar, long time John McLaughlin & Shawn Lane collaborator Jonas Hellborg, world famous tabla player Zakir Hussain, & studio percussionist Ayb Dieng, among others.

The last album to be released under the Material name was Intonarumori (1999).

- Danial 'Captain Capricorn'

MATERIAL Videos (YouTube and more)

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Palm Pictures 1999
$2.48 (used)
Seven SoulsSeven Souls
Triloka 1997
$2.69 (used)
Hallucination EngineHallucination Engine
Island Records 1994
$1.63 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS Inflammable Material CD UK Emi 1989 13 Track (Cdp7921052) USD $17.20 Buy It Now
Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves, Good USD $7.48 Buy It Now
RECTIFY/KURU Scream/Oh Martyr Of Kabala 7" VINYL UK Inflammable Material 1996 USD $6.56 Buy It Now
GENERAL PECUS/CHUKY STAR Right Material/Career Time 12" VINYL UK Rock Lab 2 USD $6.56 Buy It Now
MADONNA Material Girl 7" VINYL UK Sire 1985 Silver Plastic Label Design USD $5.51 Buy It Now
IMPLICATE S/T 7" VINYL USA Penske Material 1999 4 Track Featuring Missed USD $4.13 Buy It Now
MATERIAL Hallucination Engine CD USA Axiom 1994 8 Track (3145183512) USD $17.20 Buy It Now
KACEY MUSGRAVES Pageant Material CD Europe Mercury 2015 13 Track (4723507) USD $6.56 Buy It Now
POLICE Spirits In The Material World 7" VINYL Netherlands A&M 1981 B/W Low Life USD $5.52 Buy It Now
STREETS (MIKE SKINNER) Original Pirate Material CD Europe Warner 2002 14 Track USD $6.56 Buy It Now
WHO Who By Numbers CD Japan Polydor 2013 13 Track Shm-Cd (Super High Material USD $32.18 Buy It Now
MATERIAL ISSUE Destination Universe CD UK Polydor 1992 13 Track EX/EX USD $6.56 Buy It Now
MATERIAL ISSUE Destination Universe CD UK Polydor 1992 13 Track EX/EX- USD $6.56 Buy It Now
MADONNA Material Girl 7" VINYL UK Sire 1985 Paper Label Design B/W Pretender USD $6.56 Buy It Now
PATO BANTON WITH STING Spirits In The Material World CD UK Mca 1995 3 Track USD $4.13 Buy It Now
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42m 21s
George Harrison Living In The Material World Vinyl UK 1973 Apple 1st Press LP USD $18.38 Buy It Now 1h 3m
Material One Down - 1982 1ST PROMO PRESS - LP=NM ? CVR=EX USD $4.95 Buy It Now 1h 34m
Material - Seven Souls Bill Laswell 1989 Virgin USD $23.00 Buy It Now 2h 8m
Material (Bill Laswell): Discourse / Slow Murder - 1980 American New Wave single USD $2.00 [1 bids]
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MADONNA *** Material Girl *** SCARCE 12" Single SPAIN ARIOLA 1984 RARE USD $75.00 Buy It Now 2h 56m
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Material/Temporary music1979-1981 ( CelD 5101 Celluloid) CD Album USD $15.16 Buy It Now 5h 10m
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MATERIAL discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

MATERIAL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.10 | 11 ratings
Memory Serves
2.28 | 10 ratings
One Down
3.75 | 8 ratings
Seven Souls
3.50 | 4 ratings
The Third Power
4.40 | 21 ratings
Hallucination Engine
2.04 | 6 ratings

MATERIAL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Japan
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live from Soundscape

MATERIAL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MATERIAL Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.05 | 2 ratings
Temporary Music

MATERIAL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 2 ratings
Temporary Music 1
3.00 | 1 ratings
Temporary Music 2
3.00 | 1 ratings
American Songs


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hallucination Engine by MATERIAL album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.40 | 21 ratings

Hallucination Engine
Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Another adventurous multi-tradition fusion attempt pulled together by Bill Laswell under his Material moniker, and this one is a good one. In fact, this is one of the more successful fusions of Middle Eastern/Indian traditions with Bill's own penchant for raw urban jazz funk. Though the production is great, there are a few questionable sound engineering choices and there are some under-developed or unfinished feeling compositions, but overall this is a delightful collection of funk-infused World Music fusion from top notch musicians. 1. "Black Light" (7:33) a soprano sax-led pop jazz tune that reminds me of a funked up song from smooth jazz operators, Spiro Gyra. (8/10)

2. "Mantra" (8:44) opens with lots of spacey percussives and sound effects before developing into a Persian horn led tabla-rock song. (9/10)

3. "Ruins" (8:54) another awesome cross-mix of Middle Eastern sounds and with funky metro-pop grooves capped by the awesome violin play of Shankar. The song drags on a bit with the slow, stepped down, atmospheric middle section while retaining an edgy chord and melody structure. Could be an amazing soundtrack piece. (8.5/10)

4. "Eternal Drift" (7:35) opens with some nice atmospherics before guitar arpeggio establish a cool chord progression on which to build the song?but first more sacred/folk ethnic voicings. The actual song that settles in the third minute is faster paced, more bass- and sax-driven than anticipated, but the contributions of the myriad other musicians is awesome. The only flaw is I wished it would settle into one of the many lines and themes offered?especially the grooving ones. (9/10)

5. "Words of Advice" (3:58) William S. Burroughs speaking over a nice jazzy urban groove. Not sure of the value of William's rather cynical advice. (8/10)

6. "Cucumber Slumber" (7:30) contains a great Tony-Levin-like funky jazz bass with didgeridoo and table base. Nice rhythm guitar parts while other percussionists, Bill's bass, Wayne Shorter, and Bernie Worrell play off each other. Could almost be a modern Weather Report song. (9/10)

7. "The Hidden Garden / Naima" (13:00) orchestrated with an Indian foundation before it gets into some serious funky rock'n'roll territory. Stellar fusion! The bass stands out but the ensemble of Indian musicians here are so welcome! The final several minutes are slowed down atmospheric and gorgeous. (10/10)

8. "Shadows of Paradise" (9:45) a tabla-based jam set up to showcase Shankar's virtuosity on the 10-string electric violin. Bass, guitars, and lineup of percussionists do an awesome job in support but it's really Shankar's show (even though he's mixed a little back in the mix. (9/10)

A great urban jazz-meets-Asian/World fusion album that deserves more attention. Laswell and crew could've done better, gotten more structured "finished" compositions, but I'm not sure they could have gotten any better performances from the non-American performers.

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive music.

 Hallucination Engine by MATERIAL album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.40 | 21 ratings

Hallucination Engine
Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 4.5 stars. MATERIAL evolved out of the remains of Daevid Allen's New York Gong project. Bill Laswell is the main man here as he had a part in the writing and arranging of all of these compositions except that WEATHER REPORT song "Cucumber Slumber" that they cover here. He's also the Producer and adds bass, effects, loops, beats and more. There are 20 musicians helping out in this ambitious release including bass player extraordinaire Jonas Hellborg, SHAKTI violinist L. Shankar, World famous tabla player Zakir Hussain and Wayne Shorter himself on a variety of saxes. There is a very strong Indian vibe to the music thanks to Hussain, Shankar and many others who are from the India region. Even vocally we get lyrics in the Indian language. So you could call this World Music but it's also jazzy. There are instruments used on here that I've never heard of let alone knowing what they sound like, so this is a bit of a nightmare trying to describe what I'm hearing. The music is exotic and very catchy with some absolutely killer atmospheric passages.

"Black Light" has this spacey and spooky intro then sax arrives a minute in followed by a full sound. Nice. I like the bass here. This sax driven melody is so catchy that I was singing it at work one evening as I had been just listening to it as I pulled in. Shorter is fantastic here but there's so much going on. A calm before 6 minutes with ethnic sounds then it kicks back in a minute later. "Mantra" has this dark atmosphere to start with electronics. It kicks in just before 2 minutes signaled by this shrill Indian instrument. Percussion and beats as drums and bass follow. Catchy and oh so trippy. Man that bass sounds good. "Ruins(Submutation Dub)" has ethnic female vocals, bass, drums, atmosphere and more. There's what sounds like a slow reggae beat that will come and go throughout. Violin plays over top. It turns haunting after 4 1/2 minutes then the bass returns at 6 minutes. That beat with female vocals is back. There's that reggae beat created by the piano this time. The violin is back as themes are repeated.

"Eternal Drift" is my favourite track. Haunting flute-like sounds, female vocal melodies and more. The guitar comes in as well. Love this stuff. That guitar line melts me as it brings back the eighties for me. It picks up around 2 minutes and then the sax arrives as drums, bass and percussion helps out. When Shorter stops we get such a flavoured soundscape. Curry anyone? Shorter is back after 4 minutes. "Words Of Advice" seems to get talked about more than the music but this drops it a half star for me. It seems so out of place on here. Anyway it's funny advice for young and old but it reminds me of back in the day listening to comedy records. After several listens the jokes weren't that funny any more while I find the opposite is true with music, the more you play the better it gets. As he speaks we get a chilled out jazz backdrop.

"Cucumber Slumber(Fluxis Mix)" is of course from "Mysterious Traveller" that great WEATHER REPORT album. Atmosphere and haunting vocal melodies to start as percussion, electronics and more kick in quickly. Ahhh this sounds familiar 2 minutes in when Shorter arrives. Check it out 6 minutes in with so many sounds happening at once. A groovy tune. "The Hidden Garden/ Naima" features lots of exotic sounds including orchestral ones. Male vocals too and they're Indian I believe. A beat joins in. Catchy stuff man. It starts to settle right down 8 1/2 minutes in as the second part of the song arrives. No beat or groove here just atmosphere as sporadic sounds come and go the rest of the way. "Shadows Of Paradise" opens with atmosphere and violin. This is a dreamy section. A beat before 2 1/2 minutes as it picks up. I love how this sounds after 8 minutes although the unending violin gets a little annoying. A calm a minute later to the end.

I've grown to love this album despite not being big on World Music, it's just so inventive yet catchy. One of the best releases from 1994 no doubt.

 Hallucination Engine by MATERIAL album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.40 | 21 ratings

Hallucination Engine
Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Guldbamsen
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

5 stars Marmalade Skies

Imagine a dreamy instrumental collaboration between The Future Sound of London and Massive Attack being scooped up by the jazzy edgy duo of Bill Laswell and Wayne Shorter. Yes you're getting closer to Hallucination Engine but not quite there yet.

Listed here under fusion, I'd like to think that stickers in regards to this mother simply fall short of any meaningful explanations. You won't find any real box befitting of this fantastic venture in sonic dreams. Ethnic IDM fusion???? Nahhh...... This is real progressive music right here, even if it's miles away from the prog rock of the 70s - or 80s, 90s and 00s for that matter. This is about splicing unorthodox styles of music together, and then shaping it into that ever so seductive Material unit. Bill Laswell is the main engine behind all of it, and while you hear and feel the smoothness of the man's bass - his effortlessly played phrasings, you're just as likely going to gape at his hip and youthful beats, loops and samples. I don't know whether Laswell was an avid fan of The Future Sound of London - as Fripp was, but I sure get a similar vibe in those beats - those velvety soundscapes that more than anything feel like warm radiant sunlight cascading in over your body like a rolling wave of feel good vibe. Breathtaking stuff to say the least, and when you then add the saxophone stylings of Wayne Shorter, who sounds like a serene Yoga teacher with his lofty and ethereal spurts of beauty, - you are truly in for a treat unlike any you've come across before.

Continuing to infuse originality and vibrant umph into Hallucination Engine - you get like 40.000 tons of Indian spirit lashed onto the rhythm section, and that is without it ever coming off as a raga - or like something traditionally eastern. L. Shankar's emotional violin stints break through the barrier and joins in with the melody makers of the album, but most of the Indian spice here, is conveyed through the gorgeous tabla playing of Zakir Hussain and Trilok Gurtu. Together with the electronics the album reaches unknown heights of beauty, and the unlikely marriage of robotic electronic wisdom and earthy incessant rhythms suddenly feel like a trip to Goa - riding a huge stork with built in stereo. What the feel of this reminds me of, is the Massive Attack tune called Antistar from the brilliant 100th Window album - menacing yet soothing. A floating effervescent Indian veil pulled over the music, that takes you places only your stork chauffeur knows...

Oh you want more get-down on it bass mastery? Big fat zooming string work - thick like shoelaces! Well apart from Laswell, you also get served with the low-rider funk hero Bootsy Collins, who on here is credited with the space bass. HAHA YES!!!!!!! Beautiful, I love it! And as if that wasn't enough for you, the Swedish prodigy Jonas Hellborg additionally lends a helping hand. Needless to say that the bass now safely is taken care of.

Hmmh, I can tell that you're not quite there yet - not quite sold.............Then what about a small cameo from the man himself - the black rider, the man who eats his lunch naked and continues to draw in the young and restless outcasts - the filth of society: good ol' William Burroughs? Opening up the second side is the aptly named Words of Advice, that in usual penetrating and sharp Burroughs behaviour proceeds to teach you a thing or two about the 'stuff' you preferably shouldn't do nor trust:

"People often ask me if I have any words of advice for young people. Well here are a few simple admonitions for young and old. Never intefere in a boy-and-girl fight. Beware of whores who say they don't want money. The hell they don't. What they mean is they want more money. Much more. If you're doing business with a religious son-of-a-bitch, Get it in writing. His word isn't worth sh*t. Not with the good lord telling him how to f*ck you on the deal." - Burroughs

The words here melt together with the music like slowly oozing lava, and the staccato and dry voice of Bill develops wings and suddenly starts floating away. This is the remarkable feat of Material: everything is so wonderfully gooey and friendly. It almost approaches lounge jazz, but then again those electronics coupled up with the Indian flavourings - simply take this thing to another level. It's like that all the way through. The Beatles once wrote about marmalade skies, and this is surely the actual proof of said fantasy constellation. A rolling slithering musical substance of unknown ingredients.

If you're into IDM, fusion or ethnic music - this record is the best thing out there. I've honestly never heard anything like it, and I probably won't. Hallucination Engine is the very essence of why I am here: Discovery. Musical discovery that seduces me, wraps around me and stays with me long after the final note has played itself out. This album did that for me - it reminded me of what music can be and what it can achieve.

A masterpiece of modern music, quite simply.

 Intonarumori by MATERIAL album cover Studio Album, 1999
2.04 | 6 ratings

Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Guldbamsen
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

2 stars A bridge too far

I respect Material's will to push the boundaries - I'll even go as far as to say that I applaud it. After all, it was this never ending search for something different - something unique and sticker-free that lead them to release an album like Hallucination Engine that blurred the lines between IDM, jazz and ethnic music. The question then arises: can you take such a thing too far?

Short answer: NO. There is no such thing as taking music too far, if there's proper reasoning for doing so. Just like the movies, music needs a 'storyline' or something that starts from an inner idea - an emotional thing that can't be locked up inside a measly human vessel. It wants out! Out there among the rest of us walking flesh monsters............ I will say this though, certain individuals - musicians from the progressive lands that seek to explore everything and beyond - tend to be quite successful in trying out new things and then relegating this their new found inspiration as something personal and organic - like it was just a matter of time before they approached these fresh musical pastures.

Material are many things. Starting out as a fusion act, with loose ties to the art rock world, this musical baby instigated by bass master Bill Laswell, has infused post-punk, funk, downtempo chill out lounge fusion, electronica, pop, soul, no wave, dance, free improvisation into its sound and now with the most recent Intonarumori: Experimental hip hop...

So in keeping with what I was saying earlier: Is this credible? Does it feel like something organic - something just waiting to happen inside the ever expanding world of Material? Not really actually. I can't fault the music here, because like everything I've tried out by them previous to this album, the different styles and textures of the band flow together and outside of themselves effortlessly and elegantly like a musical dolphin. They are so in tune with each other that they'd be able to churn out a black metal album successfully for all I know. On here though, I think the partnership with all these rappers quickly turns mechanical and foreseeable - not that that is a bad thing in itself, but I have just come to expect so much more from this act. The gangsta rap takes up all of the musical space here, and you immediately feel as if you know which way the wind blows - what lies next around the corner.

I should point out, that I've been a fan of hip hop ever since the late 90s - and furthermore a big fan of one of these rappers on display here. Wu-Tang affiliate Killah Priest, and while his performance just may be the best out of the lot, there is really not much inspiration behind. By 1999 hip hop had already done this. The merging of fusion and electronica creating a dreamy and at times juxtaposing musical backdraft to the lyrical samurais slicing their way through the speakers. Here we meet artists from the world of hip hop such as Rammellzee, Kool Keith, Kut Masta Kurt, Extrakd, Eddie Def, Flavor Flav, Juggaknots feat. Breeze & Queen Heroine, phonosycographDISK, Lori Carson, Bernie Worrell, Nature Boy Jim Kelly, Scotty Hard, Elwood and Ted Parsons, Ahlill the Transcending Soldier, Alicia Blue, The Ghetto Prophets, DXT and Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey. And even if these guys mean nothing to you(well maybe some of you know Flavor Flav from his reality stint), I just wanted to show how many different names agreed to be a part of this venture.

It still falls flat on its face. The music stays in the back - and none of these lyrical artists burn, burn, burn like most of my favourite hip hop artists. I need fire and brimstone filling up the airwaves, and this is certainly not the place.

All I'll say is that if you want some experimental hip hop with connotations to our side of the pond, then I strongly suggest picking up Faust's collaboration with Dalek instead of this. 2 stars for the music though...

 One Down by MATERIAL album cover Studio Album, 1982
2.28 | 10 ratings

One Down
Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

2 stars This is possibly the worst Material album although I haven't heard every one. Basically a duo of bassist Bill Laswell and keyboardist Michael Beinhorn with guest musicians. Both would go on to produce and collaborate with many artists. After this album, Beinhorn co-wrote Herbie Hancock's biggest hit "Rockit". The vast majority of the music here is post-disco early '80s R&B and synth-pop. Very dated. Most of the vocals are done by females.

Some of the more well known guests include Nile Rodgers of Chic and a 16-year old Whitney Houston(more on that later). The best thing about this album is Laswell's bass playing, but even it sounds very dated now. "Let Me Have It All" was written by Sylvester Stewart, otherwise known as Sly of the Family Stone. "Holding On" was co-written with Brian Eno. Neither song is anything special. The last three songs are the best. Before I get to the first of the three, I'll talk about the last two. "Don't Lose Control" has some good vocoder and a nice synth melody. Some talking in French near the end. "Busting Out" is a nifty club song. I think this was a single. Good bass playing and a decent guitar solo near the end.

The best song here and the least dated is "Memories". This is the song with Whitney Houston on vocals, two years before her debut album. Jazz legend Archie Shepp plays some great saxophone on this song. Whitney does the best vocals on the whole album. This song was written by Hugh Hopper(RIP) for The Wilde Flowers(who split into Caravan and Soft Machine). The version here is very good. Great lyrics("Get so you cannot stay, and yet cannot go"). Soft Machine, Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt all recorded this song, but Wyatt's version from 1974 is the definative version. Dare I say the version here is the second best.

This album won't be of much interest to many people(whether they like prog or not). I would say you're better off getting the first album Memory Serves or the 1993 album Hallucination Engine for your first taste of Material. Material were very hit-or-miss, and this is a miss. 2 stars.

 Temporary Music by MATERIAL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1981
2.05 | 2 ratings

Temporary Music
Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Money
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

2 stars 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-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.

 Hallucination Engine by MATERIAL album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.40 | 21 ratings

Hallucination Engine
Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Money
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

5 stars 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.

 Memory Serves by MATERIAL album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.10 | 11 ratings

Memory Serves
Material Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Money
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars 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-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- psychedelic rock and incorporating his 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-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.

Thanks to Easy Money & Captain Capricorn for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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