1/  O.A.O.                                     (Laswell,Maher,MB,Cultreri)   4.43
  2/  On Sadism                                  (Laswell,Maher,MB,Cultreri)   5.04
  3/  White Man                                  (Laswell,Maher,MB,Cultreri)   7.40
  4/  Process/Motion                             (Laswell,Maher,MB,Cultreri)   4.34
  5/  Reduction                                  (Laswell,Maher,Beinhorn)      5.30
  6/  Heritage                                   (Laswell,Maher,Beinhorn)      3.33
  7/  Secret Life                                (Laswell,Maher,Beinhorn)      5.45
  8/  Dark Things                                (Laswell,Maher,Beinhorn)      5.10

          Tracks 1-4 recorded September 25 and 26, 1980 at Linden Studio, Ambler, PA
          Tracks 5-8 recorded on July 23, 24 & 25, 1979 at Eddy Offord’s Studio,
            Woodstock, New York
          Tracks 1-4 engineered by Eddy Offord and Rob Davis
          Tracks 5-8 engineered by Bill Mauchly and Vin Moos
          Tracks 1-4 produced by Martin Bisi and Material
          Tracks 5-8 produced by Giorgio Gomelsky
Michael Beinhorn: synthesizers, pianos, clarinet, percussion, tapes; Bill Laswell: 4 & 6 string basses; Fred Maher: guitar, drums, rhythm box, percussion; Cliff Cultreri: guitar; Don Davis (2): alto saxophone.

          1980 - Celluloid (France), CEL 6576 (Vinyl)
          1981 - Base Records (Italy), RS 12.000 (Vinyl)
Note: The 1981 release runs a different track listing, omits track 2 and titles 'O.A.O.', 'A.O.A.'


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.

2 stars out of 5

Easy Money (courtesy of the Prog Archives website)