“94 Diskont” (Mille Plateaux, 1995) is one of those records that could and should have changed the route of modern music. Just like Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s “Trout Mask Replica”, Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” and Throbbing Gristle’s “The Second Annual Report”. Just like those records, Oval’s third album is today enjoying an undisputable prestige, but its influence on contemporary aesthetics seems to be inversely proportional. It is therefore an insular work, singular rather than influential; a “rarity” of which the potentialities remain virtually isolated, vacuum-closed to, e.g., an industry that is traditionally opposed to change –of form and content– and a public, and that’s even more worrying, whose predisposition to innovation seems to have been reduced progressively since the end of the 70’s. Little or nothing of what “94 Diskont” contained has transcended beyond the production of its maker. Time has shown that Markus Popp was playing in a different league to the clicks’n’cuts people, who, while they did added a stimulating variation of timbre to electronica at the start of this century, they didn’t, or didn’t want to acknowledge, how revolutionary Oval’s work was, starting with its inception –or better, negation– of the musical fact, reduced to a set of processes and algorithms without dramatic nor emotional implications. Technology made sound and vice-versa.
Now, almost ten years after “Ovalcommers”, his previous album, Oval returns with “o”, an effort that arrives preceded by the EP “Oh” and the preview in the form of the video “Ah”. The first already lifted the veil on the contents: radically idiosyncratic music, following its own temporary rules: the tracks’ durations oscillate between thirty-six seconds and five minutes; structurally, two CDs contain seventy tracks in all, twenty on one and fifty on the other disc; and above all, with regards to composition. In that aspect, the preview of “Ah” complemented with “Oh” becomes a brilliant move. If the EP seemed unfriendly and difficult because of the elusive, almost liquid form of its fifteen tracks, “Ah” referred to a kind of almost standard post-rock, the real kind, not the epic blunders people put the label on these days. Both styles come together on “o”, albeit not in the measure we would traditionally understand as the stylistic balance, although there is some. As we said, Popp follows his own rules and they are still very, very far from popular orthodoxy. Sketches and “finished” tracks don’t exist together on “o”. You can’t speak of outlines of noise, melodic oasis, of improvisation, or -because there are none- songs, either. Everything has its own meaning. And yes, where there used to be glitches and electronic noise there are now guitars and drums. But that, believe me, is the least important thing on “o”. What is truly relevant, his distinguished past aside, is that Oval has done it. Again. He has given birth to a record that could and should change the route of modern music. Although it probably won’t. Like other artists didn’t that may come to mind, extremely fragmented, while listening to the album, from Derek Bailey to Bill Orcutt. Post-rock? Post-Popp. Oriol Rosell