Long ago, Markus Popp reigned supreme over the burgeoning glitch genre. With a highly recognizable style, he was a deconstructionist who possessed an ear for melody. His role as the Yasunao Tone of the post-rock set was undisputed. Then he took a decade off, releasing nearly nothing under the Oval name. Instead he collaborated with a Japanese singer on the strangely affecting “So” project and the rare collaboration.
Upon his reemergence in 2010, he claimed his return served as a new debut. A closer look revealed that not much had really changed. While he had stripped the sound down it remained true to his willingness to deconstruct music, though much of it felt sterile, especially compared to his 90s and early 00s work. Nothing released since his latest, newest period really reflected well but seemed to confirm that the musical world had progressed without him. Gone with the warmth of his earlier period and the grandiose scale of his noisier, later period the pieces simply had a one-dimensional quality to it, whereas before his sound seemed to be absolutely endless.
“Popp” offers another take on his work, this time infusing a little order into his trademark near-chaos. Fully formed it eschews his more recent more fragile sound for the over-saturated approach that defined most of his early works. Additionally his embrace of a more ‘dance friendly’ sound is particularly notable. Never before has he really placed any sort of structure to his musings, opting instead for a lighter touch. Since Oval was away a number of musicians have used glitch and looping in this looped glitch fashion, from the hypnotic grooves of the Field to the stylish fragmented bliss of Akufen. It is a testament to Oval’s unique approach that he falls into neither of these camps but rather forges his own path.
At times “Popp” with it structure alongside the deconstructionist tendencies recalls early Oval, when it was a trio. Similar to that time the songs seem to adhere to a dreamy kind of atmosphere. Even as the songs barrel forward there is a tenderness that flows out of the constant dazzling display of layered broken loops.
To mention highlights would be quite difficult as the pieces are akin to a unified whole. Much of the album seems to drift by luxuriously. In fact much of the joy of the sound includes the gnarled vocal samples which appear to represent a shift away from the purely mechanical pre-determination that has so often defined Oval’s output, like he has become unwilling to completely destroy his samples but rather to keep their origins intact, at least somewhat. Through this approach, it appears that Oval is returning to a dance-variation on Wohnton’s sound.
The result of all of this is that Popp represents the most welcoming new Oval material in years.