Celldöd’s debut release Pulsdisco came from the exact spot where techno and EBM meet and become entwined to the point of inseparability. Anders Karlsson’s all hardware productions approach that fertile intersection of styles with a specific kind of rigorous minimalism, focused in spite of the deliberate roughness in their construction. That quality is enhanced by Karlsson’s deliberate use of cheap and unreliable vintage equipment, exploring the boundaries of control with a limited and sometimes fickle set of tools. Sophomore release Mekaniskt Gränsland arrives less than a year after its predecessor, already bearing the fruits of a disciplined push for refinement.
“Tough” might be the best descriptor for Celldöd’s music, at least in the abstract. Piston-pumping tracks like “Forortsangest” and “Antimateria” have physical quality to them that suggest weight and carriage, as though their spartan arrangement of synth bass and drums are designed to push against some barrier or restraint. When Anders dips into funk, it’s of the angular and mechanical variety, injecting groove between the otherwise bare loops of “Under Press” until it starts to bounce with each heavily reverbed snap of the drum machine snare.
Interestingly, Mekaniskt Gränsland also makes good use of an entirely new element in its treatment of the human voice. “Svart Magi” starts with some stock body music grunts and yelps, but before long the track’s splashy reverbs and chirpy bassline are joined by a half-spoken vocal, emerging from what sounds like some long metallic pipe. “Allting Faller” is almost uncharacteristically on the nose in its approximation of D.A.F.’s interplay between rigid rhythm and desperate vocalizing, one of the few moments on the release that distinctly favours its EBM building blocks. These diversions from the established Celldöd blueprint work because they feel like natural retrofits, complimentary new ideas that neither distract nor divert from what the project has already established as its remit.
Whether or not Celldöd’s blows land with any given listener is probably a function of their appetite for music this relentlessly distilled. There’s a distinct unease in how infrequently these songs change course once they get going, and power in how much steam they build up imperceptibly over their run time. Deliberately rough and often exaggeratedly spare, it’s music that emphasizes form and execution over all other concerns.