• Units
  • Digital Stimulation (415) 1980 
  • Animals They Dream About (unreleased) 1982 
  • New Way to Move EP (Epic) 1983 

One of America’s first electronic new wave bands, San Francisco’s Units — Scott Ryser (synth/vocals), Rachel Webber (ditto) and Brad Saunders (drums) — started out playing Cabaret Voltaire-style cacophony, but quickly developed an educated electro-pop approach. Lyrically, Digital Stimulation is rife with irony and black humor; the spontaneous, creative music complements it well. The Units obviously prefer purer electronic sounds to the pseudo-pipe organ noises employed by many other synth bands, but stop before succumbing to the dreaded noodling disease. The upshot is a dozen sharp pop tunes of estimable value.

Typical of a hard-luck recording career, the Units’ second album — produced by Bill Nelson — solidified the early test-run of Digital Stimulation into a unique and coherent style wrapped around brutal assaults on American thought but was never released, due to a falling-out between the Units and 415. A loss.

In 1983, following the success of an independently issued 12-inch dance-floor hit (“The Right Man,” produced by Michael Cotten of the Tubes), the Units — by then a quartet with two more synthesists/singers, Jabari Allen and David Allen Junior, in and Saunders out — signed with Epic and went to Wales to record, again with Nelson. Incredibly, the resulting album also never saw the light of day, but a six-song 12-inch was released, combining “The Right Man” and “A Girl Like You” with three songs from the Nelson sessions and an Ivan Ivan dub mix of one of those. Solidly appealing and catchy dance-rock.

[Steven Grant / Ira Robbins]