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Unit.R Album Launch | Phosphenes | The Assembly

Monday, May 5th, 2008

The night started off slowly, with people trickling into the Assembly from around 9:30. But like a swift kick in the bum, the Indie rockers of Cape Town began arriving in force at 11:00 and did so until around 2am.

Unitr: One of the truly original SA bands of the decade.

Not that The Assembly has ever had a problem drawing a crowd with the rad array of gigs they have, Friday night being no exception. The crowd wasn’t as familiar as usual, but you can always find some friendly faces at Assembly. The eagerly awaited Unit-R Phosphenes album launch is a gig my sister and I have been looking forward to since they first posted the gig on Facebook, sometime around February. Yes, I know. It’s a little far in advance to make plans don’t you think? But for us, it was no choice. Unit-R put on an incredible show whenever we see them live, and getting to hear all their new songs in one night was a gig we weren’t gonna miss out on. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed.

Unfortunately for us, we had popped out of Assembly for 5 minutes to put our jackets in the car and, when we walked back inside, we found that the place had suddenly filled with fans and the band had started. I excitedly pushed my way to the front of the dancing crowd to take pictures and try and catch the assorted merchandise being flung out to the fans. Needless to say I got some dirty looks from a couple of people whose toes I obliviously stepped on, but I had to take the pics and vids of course, so no shame here?

The band was as dynamic as always, with Goran Manojlovic (lead vocals, bass, synth) jumping around the stage a bit and Justin de Nobrega (vocals, synth) enthusiastically bouncing on the spot while jamming on the synthesizer. It was really cool watching the two of them jamming together on two side-by-side synthesizers for some of the songs. Matthew de Nobrega (vocals, acoustic guitar, synths) was a little more subdued, but Leks Mano was animatedly banging away on the drums in the background.

The only problem I had with the show on the whole was the sound, which, when you’re at an Indie electro gig is really quite important. It was just a bit off. The lead vocals weren’t as strong, some of the mics sounded a bit weird. On the whole the gig was amazing, but the sound bothered me at the time and is still bothering me a bit now, since it was the pinnacle gig of their launch tour, being in front of their home audience and all. All in all this was a great gig and a fun night out, but I’d advise the sound team to be a little more on the ball in future.

Included in the task of this gig review was also checking out the new album Phosphenes and giving it the general thumbs up or down. Not being particularly musical with only an amateur understanding of music (no, I don’t understand the lingo of ‘solo riffs’, ‘strong song structure’ and ‘provocative sound’), I can’t begin to explain the complexities of each of the songs on Unit-R’s new album, but what I can say is that it had me dancing and bouncing from the moment I put it on until long after it was finished playing. With a surprise bonus song at the end of the final track Undefeated and featuring the band’s most popular songs, Clap, Daft and It’s All About, this is an album well worth buying (thumbs up!) and very much matured in sound from the band’s debut album, Two By Four.

[by Daniella Biess]

  • Unit.r Fan Page | Facebook
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  • Interview | Unit.r
  • Feature | Unit.r | Phosphenes On The Way
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  • Unit.r Home
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  • Posted in Event Reviews | No Comments »

    Unit-R: Phosphenes

    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

    Grab the lube cos Unit-R is about to get heavy petted in the back room of clubs following the release of the hyped-up and disco crazy Phosphenes, the second full album from the Cape Town four-piece multi-talented crossover indietronic outfit. The man from Del Monte says Yes.


    Stick it in the CD player or get it up to the top of your m3u. First, you’ll stop conversing and tune in. Then, you’ll ask, “who is this!” at which point I’ll break into your house, sneak up behind you and shout “Unit fuckin R!!!”, giving you the fright of your life, even though you’re listening to it at 320kbps because you bought it off our music store.

    Then, your mom will walk in and ask what all the shouting’s about, and you’ll know you’re tripping because she died in 1997. And that’s Phosphenes for you. Taking you on a journey that wakes you up with complex synth harmonies and great breaks between choruses, all the while putting you in a trance-like state.

    And you’ll wonder how these guys do it. You’ll recognise a couple of the tracks off EP Two By Four (notably the crowd-pleasing megaphone anthem ‘Clap’ and the dance mix of ‘Scared’.)

    Matthew de Nobrega fits into a greater vocal role, and ‘New Moon’ is a rocking, clap-along two-tone breakbeat number that gets your horny side going if you’re into the underground live music scene. If you’re not, your ears will turn pink. He also sings on No Way, which is lakker.

    Seriously, though, you’ll dance. And it’s not hollow dance music, the kind that Madonna and Kylie sell. No no no. We have the rarest of South African beasts on this one: clear, lovely, meaningful lyrics.

    Speaking of which, the design job is killer (thanko, Kronk), and we can’t decide if we’re about to be gobbled up by the plant from Little Shop of Horrors or molested by a gay bunny. And it has little multicoloured Overtone logo eyeballs everywhere, so thanks.

    What makes this album, really, is the fusion between live drums, electronic drums and synthesized beatz, yo [on that note, wanna know how to make music on Reason?] The danceability scores a scintillating seven (admit it, Barry Ronge: you judged movies by alliteration). In fact, I think a no-holds-barred nine would be better.

    So, come on person. Flick the Switch. Buy a CD. There’s No Way you’ll regret it. That’s what It’s All About. Don’t be Scared. You’ll Clap. Don’t wait for Full Moon! It’s New Moon now! Barely. Anyway, So Long.

    [note for readers: the closing lines of this article were a failed attempt to get every track name off Phosphenes in a paragraph that wasn't completely retardedly unintelligible. Daft, huh?]

  • Unit.R: Phosphenes On The Way

  • Posted in Album Reviews | 4 Comments »

    Interview: Unit.r

    Thursday, February 21st, 2008

    Goran Manojlovic is the closest thing Unit.r has to a frontman. He’s also an all-round nice guy, one you wouldn’t mind bouncing a smoke with on a clubside curb somewhere in South Africa. We catch him just ahead of Unit.r’s debut album, Phosphenes.

    Interview: Unit.r

    Tough question. If there’s one thing that we try not to think about, it’s where in the spectrum we might fall. I guess it’s a type of dance music somewhere between electronic indie-pop and experimental rock, but I’d hate to be classified as anything so specific…

    As you know, Justin and I met while DJing at Marvel back in 2001. We were both making electronic music, and after we got bored of the laptop/turntable performances, we started translating our music into a live band context. Our respective brothers joined us and we started the band in early 2006.

    I guess everything leaves a mark on one’s creativity – dj’s, writers, visual artists, directors, even athletes. People who can channel their talent into something beyond what we consider attainable. I could never complete the list, but, just off the top of my head: Neutral Milk Hotel, Daft Punk, Elliott Smith, Murakami (Haruki and Takashi), Kronk, Camus, Rand, Pleix, Konze, Nemov. I could go on for days.

    All we need is great sound. But ideally, a dark and cool club packed with people, a great, punchy PA (sound rig) a skilled engineer and crazy lighting. Oh well, one can only hope!

    Haha, I though this was a 2 minute interview. How do others answer this? I guess our music comes to us as a part of who we are. We could either ignore it all our lives, or let it out.

  • Unit.R: Phosphenes On The Way
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    More news…

  • Posted in Artist Interviews | No Comments »

    Unit.R: Phosphenes On The Way

    Thursday, February 21st, 2008

    What about the upcoming new Unit.R album, Phosphenes? Well, for starters, it hasn’t been released yet. I ran into Justin outside Royale in Cape Town the other day, where all the cool kids and come-downers hang out. Don’t ask what I was doing there, as I was both sober and uncool. But the bottom line is that I asked the versatile Unit.R programmer and producer what the word on the street was. Well, we were on the street.

    Phosphenes unit r

    “We got a new album coming out. It’s called Phosphenes.” Wtf.

    Unit.r: Clap
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    He shoved the balls of his hands into his eyes and said, “you know when you do this?”

    “What?!” I replied loudly, unable to see him.

    “You get these strange shapes floating around in your eyes,” he explained. “Those are phosphenes.”

    According to The Wikipedia:

    “A phosphene is an entoptic phenomenon characterized by the sensation of seeing light. Phosphenes are caused by mechanical, electrical, or magnetic stimulation of the retina or visual cortex as well as random firing of cells in the visual system.”

    Aaah. It all makes sense now. But unable to grasp the meaning behind the clearly hallucinogenic-inspired follow-up to their indie cult debut album, I called up their manageress, Dom Gawlowski.

    “Oh man, the album,” she gushed. “I’ve been listening to it on repeat since 4pm yesterday. It’s very synthy. Dance-rock clubs are gonna love it. ” We both paused to appreciate the imagery. Then, she continued. “It’s a journey. Matt with his beautiful voice. Then Goran comes in with smooth but hectic electro synth. Definitely a headphones album.”

    Phosphenes, everyone. Keep an eye out. Blink and you’ll miss it. Here’s the ‘official’ press release:

    Unit.r ‘Phosphenes’ Album Launch

    What started off as a creative outlet with no initial intent or plan in place other than making music they love, Unit.r have since developed into one of the tightest and most loved acts in Cape Town. With a real passion for music, fun and the dancefloor, Unit.r’s sound has grown into a kaleidoscope of sonic genres packed into a hugely dynamic 45 minute set.

    “We have been playing most of these songs live for some time, and we just had to see how far we could expand them in a different context, without losing the immediacy and energy of the live performance…”

    Unit.r have been together for 3 years and have released a 5 track EP titled ‘Two by Four’ and two music videos for the EP tracks, ‘Clap’ and ‘It’s All About’. In November 2007 they made the decision to go into studio for 3 months to record their first full length 11 track album aptly named ‘Phosphenes’, which is what you call the colourful ‘kaleidoscopic’ illusions you see when you close your eyes and press hard on them.

    The album is a culmination of 2 years of touring and aims to capture the versatile and highly energised live show. The album design was done by local art hero Kronk (http://www.myspace.com/iamkronk), who undertook to create an intricate look and feel befitting their quirky yet meticulously crafted sound.

    From the band…

    “We really wanted to do a record that made us want to dance, but also one that could hold it’s own on the headphones,” says bassist/vocalist Goran. “We had to find a solid balance and maintain a narrative in both contexts, while staying true to the emotions that inspired us in the first place.”

    Unit.r have teamed up with their good friends and musical allies Kidofdoom, Yesterday’s Pupil and the Sovereign Academy Dj’s to launch the ‘Phosphenes’ album in Johannesburg and Pretoria and will be bringing down Yesterday’s Pupil (Pretoria based dance-electro producer) to open the launch event in Cape Town.

    LEVIS Original Music has come on board to support the tour along with SL magazine and local radical underground fashion label Neon Black.

    A limited edition tshirt, product of the collaboration between Unit.r, Kronk and Neon black was produced to celebrate and commemorate the launch of the ‘Phosphenes’ LP.

    For More information please contact Dominique Gawlowski:
    Mobile: 082 393 6470
    Email: dominique@thesuburbanwebsite.co.za
    Fax: 021 686 4612

    When Who What Where ZAR
    29 Mar Unit.r Instrumental electronica/dance Burn, DBN tbd
    4 Apr Unit.r, Yesterday’s Pupil Instrumental electronica/dance Carfax, JHB tbd
    5 Apr Unit.r, kidofdoom Instrumental electronica/dance Zeplins, PTA tbd
    11 Apr Unit.r, Yesterday’s Pupil Instrumental electronica/dance Assembly, CPT tbd
    More gigs…

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    “Definitely a headphones album…”

    Posted in Music Features | No Comments »