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Intonarumori

Material

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Album Review

Things sure have changed since Material (then a trio consisting of bassist/producer Bill Laswell, drummer Fred Maher, and keyboardist Michael Beinhorn) released its first EP of mildly abrasive experimental art-funk in 1979. These days, Beinhorn and Maher are out of the picture, and Material is just a name that Laswell gives to one of his many collaborative projects. This time out, Material is Laswell and a motley crew of rappers and DJs. The disc's package is emblazoned with the defiant slogan "Rapping is still an art," which tends to raise one's expectations somewhat. Those expectations are more or less borne out, too. As is his wont, Laswell provides instrumental settings that are dark, rhythmically complex, and bone-shakingly bass-heavy; on top of his foundational beats there are expert turntable manipulations from the likes of DXT (known to old-school aficionados as Grandmaster D.ST) and phonosycographDISK, rapping by Ramm Ell Zee, Scotty Hard, Killah Priest, Flavor Flav, and others, and even a cameo appearance by wispy-voiced art-pop singer Lori Carson (whose "All That Future," a collaboration with funky keyboard legend Bernie Worrell, turns out to be one of the album's highlights). Flavor Flav is his typical off-the-wall self on "Burnin'," while Killah Priest gets arrhythmically serious on the six-minute recitation "Temple of the Mental." Alicia Blue provides the aptly titled "Flow," and Kool Keith weighs in with "Conspiracies," a lyrical theme that keeps returning throughout the album. The only weak point here comes, unfortunately, at the very end, with Ramm Ell Zee's obnoxious and stupid "Hisstory." That aside, this is highly recommended overall.

Biography

Formed: 1979 in New York, NY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s

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,...
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Intonarumori, Material
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