Oval “Oh” (Thrill Jockey)
Markus Popp… wha happen???? Ten years of silence from Oval and then…. “Oh!” So perfectly titled, and perfectly executed. This is not the same Oval that made the buzzing, shimmering noise of Ovalcommers in 2000, nor the head-tilting CD-skipping masterpiece of 94diskont (perhaps single-handedly defining glitch as a micro-genre). If anything, this may be closest to Oval’s first album Wohnton, when they were still a trio recording proper songs. Subtract the vocal and manhandle the pop leanings into more of a free jazz spirit and that’s only the vaguest indication of what to expect – in other words, nothing at all like that. 😉 It’s startling to hear Popp embracing musicality again after almost completely eradicating it from his music. The first song “Hey” is bright and spry, full of unusual plucked string sounding melodies (synths? samples? who knows?) and sampled live drum kit. The only real similarity to Oval’s previous repertoire is the stunning attention to detail and the otherworldliness that you feel when hearing it. Beyond the sparkling first track, most of the rest of “Oh” is dreamlike improvisation. There are tinges of Oval’s past in some of the noodlier tracks like “Homesick” or the square, suspended tones of “Kastell 4,” but these are fleeting as Popp has clearly advanced past the technical rut he may have found himself in at the turn of the century. He is releasing a double-CD later this summer or fall which I’m interested in hearing – more of this, or something even more different? Either way, exciting stuff.