Early Material was centered around Laswell, guitarist Robert Quine, drummer Fred Maher, keyboardist Michael Beinhorn and Laswell's partner in studio recording, Martin Bisi. There were frequent guest stars, and the music was primarily instrumental. The music was often funky -- a few singles, such as "Ciquri", were popular in New York City dance clubs -- but decidedly experimental.
1982's One Down marked a change towards relatively more accessible mainstream "funk and disco tunes delivered with a minimum of weirdness." "Memories" was one of Whitney Houston's first recordings as a featured vocalist.
Laswell has since used the Material name for a variety of projects featuring his usual revolving-door cast of talented musicians. Notable was 1989's Seven Souls, featuring William S. Burroughs reading portions of his novel The Western Lands; that song was also predominantly featured in The Sopranos' season six opener, Members Only.