From Slash Magazine, Vol.3, No.5
Sounds Magazine, January 31, 1981
One night of Syn(th)
(415 Records 41 5A-
THEIR ALBUM-title may sound like a Tomita concept elpee or a budget funny noises platter, and their publicity pix may make them look like a bossa nova trio on Search For A Star, but the debut from San Francisco's Units is possibly the colony's first ever partytime electronic album, and frequently achieves the exquisite pop vertigo of our own Human League.
Scott Ryser and Rachel Webber handle synthesizer and vocals, while Brad Saunders backs them up with tricky/horny drums, smoldering along halfway between jazz-rock and the rhythms he discovered while studying the music of the Dark Continent (no, not Burundi rhythms). It's inapposite, but Ryser and Webber's synthesizers have superficial similarities with Corea at his most frenetic, going at it like the clappers, defying gravity as they swerve and curl around the time.
Eleven tracks in all, the longest 4.03 minutes, the shortest 1. 45 minutes. The opener, 'High Pressure Days', states their intentions with a punch; powerful 'orchestrated' rhythm, chattering morse / wood pecker synth lead, a solo synth blowing and wailing (my knees just go to jelly at this stuff) and staccato vocals.
My favourites are 'Bugboy' and the possibly rude 'Tight Fit'. The former is a delightfully unwholesome tale of a warped middle-class kiddie (mom a psychologist, pop a lawyer) who tortures bugs, set to a bowling drum rhythm with buzzing synthesizers wheeling and swooping overhead. I could have danced all night. 'Tight Fit' just has to be a Western / electronic form of Gamelan music; Saunders lays a ticking funk base over which Ryser and Webber perform a simple synth repetition. On top guest vibist Jim Reynolds lays a clattering Gamelan rhythm, made even more intense by the addition of a harsh counterpoint, just like the real thing. It'll give you the shakes. My one prayer is that they're not given the kiss of death by the futurists. They deserve much more than to be chewed up and spat back out by a bunch of mindless clothes-horses.
The Daily Texan, November 19, 1980
First album by Units shows flowing talent and potential
By JODY DENBERGDaily Texan Staff
"Digital Stimulation"; Units; 415 Records.
"Digital Stimulation" is a futuristic technicolor vision of the world as seen by Units, a San Francisco trio consisting of two synthesizer players and a drummer. Their first album is texturally rich as well as rhythmically blistering. It flows with narrow and broad streams of electronics, yet manages to retain a great deal of human emotion.
Scott Ryser, who began his career with the glitter band Ace Jet in the early '70s, plays lead synthesizer, while Rachel Webber plays bass synthesizer. The pair, who graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with degrees in video art, also accumulate and edit the slides, graphs, charts and films which provide a visual backdrop for the band's concerts.
Brad Saunders rounds out the group on drums, displaying an affinity for Third World rhythm patterns which he incorporates into the group's songs. Since the completion of "Digital Stimulation," Units have permanently added classically trained percussionist Jim Reynolds to their lineup. The amazing dexterity he displays on the vibes during the avant-garde instrumental "Tight Fit" easily explains why.
The opening track, "High Pressure Days," was earlier released as part of an EP. Its rhythms are instantly danceable, like The Police's, and the song's drumming is fairly straightforward. The synthesizers are crisp and supply a perky ambiance - like the score. Besides appealing on sensual levels, Units philosophize without seeming heavy- handed -- they are existentialists, interested in experiencing things without internally ruminating about them. "Warm Moving Bodies" gives great advice to potential Units listeners - Turn off the sentences / and turn on the senses.
Post Punk Diary, George Gimarc
August 15, 1980 FridayThe Units have their debut album "Digital Stimulation" released by 415 Records. It features new versions of their previously released single sides "Warm Moving Bodies", "Cannibals", and "cowboy," plus the new tracks: "High Pressure Days," "Go," "Mission," "Bugboy," "Tight Fit," "Passion Or Patterns," "Town By The River," and the title track, "Digital Stimulation."
They're unusual in San Francisco underground in that they are one of the few synthesizer bands around. While the band plays, an array of found film, slides and projections whirr away to provide a distractingly psychedelic light show. The new album is possibly one of the most cheaply recorded albums in West coast history. The band had a limited budget to work on when they signed with 415 Records. They seemed to think they'd need about a hundred hours of studio time to record the LP and at $75-$200 an hour that adds up fast. By chance that happened to have a friend who was working with a studio that had just installed a 16 track deck they needed to learn to work. The band could use the facility for only $19 an hour! The total recording session took about two months and now the results are in the stores.
The germ of the band is Scott Ryser who began playing synth on stage in 1973 when he was part of a glitter band called Ace Jet. Also in the Units you'll find bass synthesizer player Rachel Webber and drummer Brad Saunders. Saunders actually traveled to Africa to study percussive interests and tries to work in unusual beats and patterns where he can. He told a BAM reporter that, "...when you listen to recordings of African music, you can tell that the people are happy. I think that's important. The Units have more of a party, folksy attitude. It's music for the whole person, not just for the brain." Since this album was recorded, they've also been joined by a fourth member, classically train percussionist Jim Reynolds.
Keyboard Magazine, June 1982:
Units, Digital Stimulation, 415 Records (Box 14563, San Francisco, CA 94114), 415A-0003. Spare textures highlight the vocals and harsh-edged synthesizer work of Scott Ryser and Rachel Webber. Rhythm machines and drums collaborate effectively, even making a rare departure from 4/4 (in "Bugboy").