From his music alone, Oval's Markus Popp always seemed the most professorial of the experimental techno crowd in the '90s, but he left the academy, so to speak, with barely a backward glance, early in the 2000s. In that light, his return in 2010 with an EP (Oh) and the LP O are most welcome. His methods have changed remarkably, although the results haven't.
It's hard to talk about Oval's recordings without using phrases like "raises questions. " In the 1990s, Markus Popp used the Oval name to make contemporary art that took sound as its form and the relationship between music and technology as its subject, which is to say music scrubbed (partially) clean of the bourgeois idea of the "musician. " It was interesting to hear, sometimes even pleasant or dreamy or emotionally affecting, but that always seemed like a side effect rather than a goal.
The buzz, already receding back into subaudible hiss, that surrounds the not-so-recent release of O — hot on the heels of the Oh! EP, but preceded by almost a decade of dead air — is that Markus Popp’s silence masks a busy period of reinvention. The story goes that Popp (a. k.
Back in the ‘90s and the early 2000s, Oval’s Markus Popp was the king of experimental, process-dominated electronica. Not simply content to appeal to the IDM base, but too enamored with melody to reach Akira Rebelais-levels of opacity, Popp combined the best of both worlds, dedicating his career to getting methodology and aesthetics to line up. But although his goal remained consistent, the specific approaches he took on each of his records were beautifully distinct.
Running to 70 tracks, O is both thrilling and rewarding. Colin Buttimer 2010 O is Oval's first long-play release in a decade, following the release of an EP, Oh. Both works reveal a very different sound from Oval's exploration of digital distortion. O comprises 70 tracks over a total of almost two hours.
!!! The Brooklyn band !!!, generally pronounced chk-chk-chk, thinks pop on its album “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” (Warp) — or at least tries harder than ever not to sound like a rhythm section in search of songs. Verses and choruses dominate, and Nic Offer chant-sings, in his testy deadpan, about romance, rancor and the power of pop itself. The album starts with “AM/FM,” a song about radio, memories and breaking up; later “Steady as the Sidewalk Cracks” sums up the pop cycle of dismissal, endurance and nostalgic acclaim: “When I was young they called it garbage/Now suddenly, it’s golden age” and urges, “Trust the music.
The return of the turn of the century’s most artistically successful and influential electronic musician is not something to take lightly, and Markus Popp, the man synonymous with Oval, comes back in typically challenging but grand style with a 2-CD, 70-track effort. After a nine year hiatus from releasing music as Oval, some thought the accumulation of technological advances would require Popp to radically redefine his approach, seeing how his approach was becoming more rooted in his specially built software environment, Oval Process. This oft-circulated idea is pulled out and brandished any time an electronic musician takes a sizable break between releases, but makes little sense considering the fact that the intervening nine years saw nobody advance Popp’s achievements as they stood, and he could have picked up right where he left off with his old 9 year-old technology, orchestrating beautifully dense storms of electronic noise and melody.