Monday, January 31, 2011

Material - Memory Serves (1981)

If there has ever been a musician that I would consider to be a boneified personal musical idol, it would probably be Bill Laswell. He's done it all, seen it all, and as a bass player is easily on par with the best that the funk, jazz and any musical world you can think of have to offer.

Before he would work with such established legends like Buckethead and Iggy Pop though, Laswell was part of many an interesting project as a young man growing up in the 70's and 80's, polishing his talents and eventually hooking up in New York city with a bunch of people who would go on to form a great little No-Wave band called Material, with 1981's Memory Serves being their debut shot at the big leagues that be.

But man, what a strange record this is, even considering the scene it was birthed from. It's nothing like the punk-jazz or distorted classically influenced noise rock of their Brian Eno-collected peers. Rather, Memory Serves is comparable to a freakish nightmare where Talking Heads and Magma have a little troll together after a night in the sack without birth control, an embittered progeny which subsequently grows up on a steady diet of Henry Cow and Parliament and decides to write sonatas for a living instead of going to medical school to to get his P.h.d in Psychiatry.

Amusingly enough, the funk influence is a force to be reckoned with: even such exercises in dissonance like 'Square Dance' and sludge kickin' 'Silent Land' can't fully suppress the primal groove which blazes through these songs like a leyline.

However, Memory Serves is at it's most enchanting when the rhythm of the heat manages to work in complete balance with whatever off-kilter arrangement is at play, such as the playfully agressive sax boppin' title track and New Order bounciness that seems to bleed through 'Conform To The Rhythm' from its opening contortions to a fine, percussive fadeout that hints at something beyond its runtime. Where might it have gone if given another minute? Or ten even?

For those will to take a leap into Bill Laswell's bone-crunchingly colossal discography, this might be a great place to begin one's voyage. For everyone else though, it's just a messy fun early 80's slice of experimentation to get lost in for an evening or two.

Regardless of what camp of listener you fall under, though, you'll most certainly find it quality.

Listen Here - "Memory Serves"

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