Formed: 1979 in New York, NY
Group Members: Simon Shaheen, Bill Laswell, Sonny Sharrock, Charles K. Noyes, Olu Dara, Michael Beinhorn, Aiyb Dieng, Fred Frith, Fred Maher, Nicky Skopelitis, Henry Threadgill
Styles: Experimental Rock, Post-Punk, Prog-Rock/Art Rock, Avant-Garde, Ambient, Funk
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 which 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 line-up 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 NY 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-funk of 1982's One Down, the final Material LP before a nearly decade-long hiatus; Laswell finally reassembled the troops in 1989 to record the atmospheric Seven Souls, which spotlighted the spoken-word performances of the legendary William S. Burroughs. 1991's The Third Power brought the group back to its soulful roots, with guests including Herbie Hancock, Sly & Robbie, Maceo Parker and the Jungle Brothers; after 1994's Hallucination Engine, another four-year hiatus preceded the release of the remix collection The Road to the Western Lands. Intonarumori followed in 1999.
- Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide)