Boomkat Product Review:
Markus Popp made a much-anticipated return under his Oval guise earlier on in 2010, delivering the Oh EP for Thrill Jockey. Now, the full-length is with us - all seventy-tracks and two hours of it.
There's a very clear distinction between the Oval material of the 1990s and this new music: previously, Popp had emphatically put theory and concept ahead of the actual end product, and this made for groundbreaking, often startlingly alien sounds. All these years on and the notion of wilfully disrupting digital music platforms as a means of creation (the essence of the 'glitch' movement Oval spearheaded) feels like a well-worn and familiar idea, and so rather than retread former glories, 'O' represents a radical departure for Popp.
Abandoning his own custom-built, glitch-generating apparatus, the new approach brings Popp's musicianship to the fore, and across this sprawling track selection he further explores the language of trilling electroacoustics previewed on the recent EP. Once again, Popp occasionally adorns his compositions with percussion, adding a further 'real-life' layer to the whirring, machinated sounds that pierce the fabric of his recordings, but perhaps contrary to the intention, you can't help but wonder how those central electronic constituents are made. On the surface, it seems as if you're listening to guitars and soft-synths being sculpted into prickly melodic shapes, but you can't quite tell how much is performed in real-time and how much is an electronic treatment - or for that matter what that electronic treatment might be. Consequently, it's a little bit difficult to accept O as an about-face from Popp's conceptual, process-heavy past; the essential aesthetics of this music (particularly the more fragmentary, miniaturised tracks of the second disc) actually seem like close cousins of the old-style Oval works - almost as if you're listening to a synthesis or replication of that pioneering glitch music, except it's all very live, even acoustic sounding this time around.
However it was made, O is a triumphant return for Popp, one that sets out to reinvent the Oval sound yet remains true to its singular, pioneering spirit.