Back on the turning point between the 70’s and the 80’s, San Franciscan group The Units made Digital Stimulation, a wired blend of no wave attitude and mostly synthesised instruments. Tight robotic rhythms and anxiously barked vocals, arpeggiated synth-lines and disco-bass: very good. Remastered reissue on Futurismo.
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- FUTNO7B / Remastered 180g 'MODULAR SHOCK' coloured vinyl LP on Futurismo
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- Digital Stimulation by Units
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The Units used their synthesized toys and moody post-punk influences to indict their listeners in a world of pure joy. “High Pressure Days” is obviously the jam, a twinkling tune that perfectly lays out their mission statement (marching dances, incidental punk politics, chilly but euphoric pop) plus some of our own projections on them (sounds like Devo). Beyond that, though, ‘Digital Stimulation’ is a record of tunes that reminds us of how intuitive the many incarnations of disciplined New Wave can sound.
With lightning-fast percussion and a woozy synth motif, the record’s title track sees the band trembling through their pop music, shaking out cries of “I need to know her!” like the song could fall apart at any point, in spite of its seemingly unwavering rhythm. Units had a distinct sound, in this regard: their synth pop sounded like it was on cruise control, as per many a good band confined to this genre’s affectations (think Devo, but also spare a thought for the Severed Heads), but it also sounded unhinged and temperamental, frightened of the power of a catchy hook. The drumbeat slapped down on “Go Mission” seems to make the band sound more frantic, like Iggy Pop trying to make his way through a verse of “Search and Destroy” without growling.
For the most part, some of Unit’s charm comes from their layering of bizarre sound effects over what feels like fairly sparse electronic arrangements -- the sounds of cartoonish gang vocals, people screaming and the like is coupled with, you know, synths on autopilot. But there are those moments where the punk becomes more textural: “Cannibals” uses a noisy guitar line along with percussion and keys to create a mini wall of sound. Whatever the No Wave Weather, though, this crew made a weird and wonderful classic.
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