Anders Karlsson’s work with Swedish EBM project The Pain Machinery has been touched by the hand of techno for some time, their latter releases (especially 2012’s exceptional Restart) showing a solid working knowledge of acid and minimal styles, albeit through the lens of retro-minded body music. Karlsson’s solo work as Celldöd presents the blend of styles in an even more direct fashion, melding the insistence and brute force of EBM with techno’s dry minimalism and squelchy synthwork.
The six tracks on Pulsdisco are appealingly spare in terms of their presentation, each relying on a shifting arrangement of bass and drums as their foundation. At least a portion of that is probably due to Karlsson’s self-imposed technical limitations; each of the songs was composed entirely on hardware and recorded directly to tape with no overdubs. That lack of ornamentation makes the little things count for way more, like the far-off and indistinct vocal sounds lurking behind a simple bass figure on on the slow-rolling and hypnotic “Deffad”. The track is so effective at drawing in the listener that even the minor change in the configuration of the drums about two thirds away of the through feels jarring. It’s a trick that works just as well on the rusty “Som Rakblad”, where the very minor changes to the halting synthline become the focus as it grinds itself out.
Those seeking a more standard techno-body music hybrid will find it on the two iterations of the title tracks that make up the core of the EP. “Pulsdisco 1” and “Pulsdisco 2” each rely on variations of the 16th note bassline, firmly suggesting classic and neo-old school EBM but withholding any significant embellishment beyond the occasional change in filter settings and the degree to which various percussion sounds are reverbed. Bareness as aesthetic choice is a tough one to justify although you can’t help but admire the restraint at play here: tiny adjustments that seem broad and sweeping because the work was put in to establish their importance.
Admittedly much of this EP is in the realm of the acquired taste, and those coming at it from the techno side of things will likely be more ready for how uncommonly austere it is. Yes, it’s ultra minimal and yes, it has a certain air of indifference to it, but that’s very much what Celldöd seems to be shooting for. This is an unapologetically niche take on a sound we’ve heard before, in stripping away almost everything Pulsdisco provides us a seemless vision of where two distinct styles meet and become indistinguishable.