Markus Popp’s first “Oval” release after almost a decade of silence is a spectacular departure from the deconstructivist electronica that made him a laptop legend. Instead, and totally out of nowhere, this 15-track EP establishes Popp as an accomplished musician, who is delivering a glimpse of his very own exciting flavor of "free" music in the best sense of the word.
Oh is pressed on 150 gram white vinyl and housed in an LP jacket with a hand-glued photo art card on the front. The 12” is limited to 1,000 copies worldwide with download coupon
Mind you, we’re not talking about just another laptop producer who is hiring a bunch of musicians for occasional live shows, but Popp delivering a true tour-de-force of improvised music beyond boundaries which still always ensures to deliver (and expand) that very special, haunting Oval atmosphere.
This meticulously crafted EP is indeed a wild ride - and it is in fact so fundamentally different in almost every imaginable way (Guitars? Are those actual drums?!?) that we will instead conveniently list what remains unchanged: Popp’s latest tracks still have this almost unsettling, organic, soothing atmosphere that has made Oval tracks and remixes such timeless classics.
What makes this new release especially exciting, is that Popp effortlessly merges totally unexpected musicianship with his sensibility for abstract, angular electronics and blends them into a vibrantly colorful music that truly feels alive. The new Oval sound is so arresting, emotional and dynamic that all distinctions like “programmed vs. played”, “laptop vs. improvisation” or “acoustic vs. electronic” are rendered meaningless.
This EP (and forthcoming Double CD) are an attempt at breaking new ground, just as “Systemisch” single-handedly created the glitch movement back in the 90s, which continues to provoke and inspire many music producers all over the world to this day. The 2010 Oval sound is an equally radical departure from what else is out there today - and yet, it’s more accessible than ever. Still one question remains: how did he do it?
The most important paradigm for the new sound was that everything should be done the exact opposite way from how it was done in the past. Popp exclusively used (cheap) commercially available software and plug-ins instead of programming his own. He utilized one (four years old at that) $500 stock PC instead of several high-end Macs. All the virtual instruments are played with his own hands. And last but certainly not least, scales, harmonics, and melody are the foundation of this music instead of theory and meta-discourse.
Popp remarks that "after years of dissection and denial I wanted to try making 'real' music for a change. The design goals for the short side B tracks were to attain the sense of a familiar sound and 'ringtone'. While it took me years to get the tech aspect down, the tracks themselves are pretty much recorded live and from here, I am very much looking forward to evolving this setup like a real band."
In a sense, this new Oval music as a whole is a trompe l'oeil, an acoustic illusion. But it's a very convincing one, to a point, where you don't insist on the specific qualities of the "original" any longer. These days, a flock of birds in the distance in a movie scene is simply "there", whether it was actually part of the shot or just added digitally in post - it just doesn't make a difference any more.