Memory Serves

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Material was a prolific band in the early '80s, and if you had to pick just one of the many EPs and LPs that came out around this time, this is the one to take. First of all, just check out the personnel -- it's a who's who of the downtown avant-party set: Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn, of course, aided and abetted by the likes of Fred Frith, Sonny Sharrock, Henry Kaiser (and those are just the guitarists), violinist Billy Bang, drummer Anton Fier, and too many more to mention. The sound is consistently challenging yet just as consistently rewarding; Laswell's bass is front-and-center most of the time, churning out funky and angular lines that provide a solid foundation for more outre sounds like Frith's prepared guitar and George Lewis's splayed trombone on "Memory Serves" and the scratchy violin and edgy seven-beat melody of "Metal Test." "Conform to the Rhythm" indulges Beinhorn's singing at its tuneless, Orwellian worst, but there's far more to recommend than to criticize on this album. Strongly recommended.

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