Mental Overdrive is the primary solo moniker of Per Martinsen, one of Norway's most prolific and influential techno musicians. His tracks have ranged from hardcore rave techno to vibrant space-disco, and he's always maintained a healthy balance of humour and braininess. Active since 1990, he began his career releasing several 12" EPs of aggressive, rave-ready hardcore techno on revered Belgian label R&S, including the classic ‘12000 AD’ (1990).
In 1994, Martinsen began releasing atmospheric techno singles as part of Illumination, his duo with Nicholas Sillitoe. The next year, Mental Overdrive released the single "Disto Disco," which featured a B-side ("Faith") co-written by R&S artist Outlander, best known for the 1991 classic "Vamp." The A-side appeared on Mental Overdrive's full-length debut Plugged, released on Martinsen's own Love OD Communications. The album showed a notable progression in his music, maintaining its rough, distorted hardcore techno sound while adding more cerebral elements, placing it closer to Warp's Artificial Intelligence series. Martinsen displayed his sense of humour with 1996's Unplugged, a limited conceptual release containing silent "versions" of the tracks on Plugged.
In 1997, Mental Overdrive signed to Virgin and released About Jazz, a significantly more house/disco-influenced EP than his previous work. This was followed by full-length Ad Absurdum, which continued in a more light-hearted and funky direction than his previous releases. He took a few years off from releasing Mental Overdrive recordings, instead devoting time to Frost (his more pop-focused electronic duo with his wife Aggie Peterson) and Illumination, which released two albums on RCA.
In the following the years, Martinsen continued releasing Mental Overdrive music on Full Pupp, Smalltown Supersound and Love OD. In 2019 Martinsen signed to MUSAR with ‘DARTRAX’ EP, taking its title from the African lamellaphone instrument of the same name. 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.