Automatons are Coming!

Synthetic ID


Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

This here, is an album that doesn’t come around every day. It’s like one of those really hip, modern art pieces – the kind where someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about makes a crack about “well, hell, I coulda done that…” – but guess what, guy? You didn’t!! That’s why you’re pretending to be indignant and come across as if you were some sort of “art purist” (whatever the hell that is), when, the truth is, you just don’t understand what those artists, mainly the post-impression period, onwards, meaning, the early 20 years of the 20th Century. Then, in the 50s, you had even more bold, forward thinking art that spanned the gamut from abstract expressionism to pop-art, that is, from artists like Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns as well as Roy Lichtenstein, to name three, in the 50s, to Andy Warhol, one of the (deservedly or not -that’s always been debatable).

OK, well, moving from painting to music, we have with us today, the new album, about to be released, shortly, by another San Francisco homegrown band. They are Synthetic ID and their album is Impulses, written about here and there, I’ve noticed, as “post-punk”. But, really, before even seeing those blurbs, here and there, as I listened to it, myself, I could feel more of a punk-punk or, at most, a peri-punk, but not a post-punk. Impulses has 13 tracks on it, with an average of 3:00 a song, though, some track are only 2 minutes, while others are three + minutes, and so forth, but when you do average it out, it comes to about a three-minute average.

The coolest description I’ve read of Impulses so far is one I read on the Resident website,, “…It’s a tight, fuzzy, underground treasure.” That certainly seems to encapsulate, in just a few, concise words, exactly my sentiments about this album.

Some songs worth checking out include: “Ciphers”, “Changing Frequencies” as well as the opening cut, “Blind Spots”, which starts off Impulses quite nicely. It sets the mood, sets up the scene and it’s about this early point in the album, that one can realize that they’ve scored.

The music on Impulses has a raw, punk ethos; a stripped down, no-wave type of sound, as in, James Chance & the Contortionists, but, then again, I would be remiss if I were to leave one with the impression that Synthetic ID sounds like James Chance & the Contortionists; all I meant to convey was that, since the labels “punk” or “post-punk” have been, over the past 30 years somewhat overused, I thought that something different might be appropriate. As I sat and tried to come up with something else to describe Yes, now that I think of it, “no-fi” might fit Synthetic ID better, rather than calling them “punk”, which, I think, gets overused a lot – or, rather, has gotten overused a lot over the past 20-25 years, not just in the past few years. That’s why I would rather use something else with which to label them, if I must; something that truly describes them, then I’d rather use something which would be more fitting.

Not as intense as, say, The Fall, like, in their earlier years,
but without the plastic-and-vinyl-lounge-style of James Chance. I guess, what I’m trying to convey here, is that Synthetic ID have this fast-and-loose style. They combine a number of musical devices that work well, the way they’ve done it. Just give it a listen and then you’ll know what I mean. -KM.


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