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Active since 1990, when he produced the first in a series of legendary, rave-ready EPs for R&S, Mental Overdrive, born Per Martinsen, continues to find inventive new musical paths and approaches thirty years into his career. This deft touch of lifelong curiosity is executed as creatively as ever on the ‘DARTRAX’ EP.
The recordings present on the EP began life in 2004, when Per Martinsen and Aggie Peterson were invited to Tanzania by Norwegian radio producer Sigbjørn Nedland to take part in recording sessions with local musicians in Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo. Despite the “super-inspiring” nature of the sessions, the recordings had been languishing on a hard-drive for over a decade, until their rediscovery leads to them becoming much sought-after, charismatic dancefloor weapons amongst a tight network of DJs.
It should come as no surprise that the mbira itself is key to the lead track ‘Mbira-Kalimba’, forged in partnership with musicians Chiwoniso Maraire & Anania Ngoliga, although others may be delighted, not least relieved, with the precision and creativity with which Martinsen and his collaborators execute the instrument’s unique sound. Far from utilising the usual sample-as-exoticism trope rampant through electronic music, the track instead weaves a delicate and authentic melody that seamlessly expands into surprisingly gritty, yet still playful electro territory, and out the other side.
‘Litungu’, meanwhile, performs a treatment of similar intent on the traditional and more obscure, lute-like instrument predominantly popular in traditional Kenyan music. Here, Martinsen and Maulid Mohammed delicately balance the delicate touch of the original with a layer of charismatic filter and distortion, adding texture to a beat that is somehow both folksy and yet propulsive, resulting in something truly unexpected for open-minded dancefloors.
On remix duty, fellow Norwegians Charlotte Bendiks (one of the first DJs to champion the original) and her equally-skilled studio partner Boska reduce ‘Mbira-Kalimba’ to it’s hypnotic, percussive core, eventually turning the original source to electro liquid for a diverse payoff. Sending heads spinning for the finish, DMX Krew proves to be an inspired choice to remix ‘Litungu’, blending his elastic acid-electro impulses with a particularly wild refix of a more obscure sound, concocting a memorable redo that could only be his own.