From the cover of his latest record, a youthful Per Martinsen stares out from under a long blonde fringe, his eyes like daggers piercing the thin veil between the past in the present of a career spanning two decades as Mental Overdrive. Caught in spectral sepia, the younger Martinsen looks out the EP cover in part scorn, part challenge to his older counterpart for a record that sees the artist reconnecting with some aspect of that unbridled youthful irreverence locked in monochrome.
As a four track EP that flirts with an industrial synth palette, Integratron is a work that harks back to some of Martinsen’s earliest music as Mental Overdrive, back to his time on R&S and records like 12 000AD that established the young Tromsø native as one of the world’s most endearing and enduring Techno artist.
After a couple of LPs on Full Pupp and Ploink and some more experimental sojourns through a modular synthesizer patch for the likes of his Wave∞Form project, Martinsen moves into completely different territory on Integratron.
There’s no doubt the lockdown played some role in these sonic ruminations, not in the least on the track called Lockdown, but in the way the record seems to appear in isolation. Integratron breaks with Mental Overdrive’s recent catalogue, forging a divergent path through foggy textures and down-tempo arrangements that avoid the preconception of the dance floor in what is probably the artist’s most introverted work since Plugged.
Appearing on his own Love OD imprint, Martinsen indulges an disharmonious tone, as synthetic tones glide through unfamiliar intervals and percussive pieces echo in a dark chasm. The sonic creations are bold and densely orchestrated with an enticing mood coursing through the entire record.
From the title track to Lockdown, Martinsen favours the contemplative moods of the lower tempos with broken percussive arrangements and industrial ambient textures floating through feedback while irrational melodies journey through bleeping machines. It’s only on the EP opener TW-AW_18 that he stretches the legs of the BPM counter, promoting the drums to take center stage, and it’s here where the record really grabs the listener’s attention.
The gated drums and synthetic stabs cut through space like a velvet buzz saw and touch on something raw and impulsive that Martinsen restrains through the rest of the record. It’s this track that the younger Martinsen seems to lay down as a challenge for his older self, and which he then tries to consolidate through the remaining pieces.
He preserves an instinct across Integratron, if not a sound, as he retains the fleshy exterior of the sonic palette, while moving between divergent musical forms. Installing the mood, from the opening track to the last, Martinsen is free to explore diverse, often contradictory, elements from his wide-ranging artistic voice in what we can only assume is a concerted effort from the artist to tap into some element of that youthful spirit looking back at him from the cover of this record, as he strives for something different from what he’s been doing recently.