"No one out there plays the computer quite like him"
"Today, making an album is 50% sculpting a breathtaking landmark to commemorate your journey...and 50% building the tourist trap around it." MP
Oval began in the early 90’s and rapidly gained acclaim for its innovations in electronic music. Composer Markus Popp championed software intuition over his own role in music making for many years, anticipating the AI trend in composition by nearly 30 years. Early albums found a critique of the entire system of recorded music built into every gesture. Popp toured with a desktop computer and projected his screen, constructing remarkably evocative and emotional performances from file manipulation. Each new Oval release saw Popp radically redefine his practice, introducing new elements and embracing new creative challenges, integrating cutting-edge technology and processes into his practice to ensure that each record sounded as contemporary and exhilarating as the last.
MARKUS POPP / OVAL FULL BIO
Trailblazing glitch masterpieces (1990s), delicate, hyper-real, futuristic post-rock vignettes (after 2010) and now abstract club bangers with a delicious twist - Markus Popp aka Oval continues to be one of the most prolific, influential creative forces in contemporary electronic music.
Every Oval album is a unique, shape-shifting celebration of innovation, skill and sensibility. In an age of shallow spectacle, Popp keeps going on his deep dives, always ready to reinvent and surprise - merging uncompromising high tech with compelling musicality. Popp is distinctly doing his thing, yet always enthusiastically dealing with the “here & now”. No one out there plays the computer quite like him.
1990s - THE GLITCH REVOLUTION
The now legendary early Oval album releases like „Systemisch” and „94Diskont.” sent shockwaves through the then-emerging „electronica” landscape of the mid-1990’s, introducing a radical, new and unique sound & digital production aesthetic. With an undeniable instinct for the pleasantly irritating, the drastic and the dreamy, Oval pioneered „glitch” / „clicks & cuts”, inspiring and provoking several generations of producers to this day. The distinctive, organic appeal of Popp’s visionary glitch tracks and remixes are widely considered watershed moments for the entire genre: Timeless, haunting classics, earning Oval critical acclaim as well as several media & art awards.
2010 - HE ONLY CHANGED EVERYTHING
After a long hiatus, Popp returned in 2010 with his „Oh” EP and the subsequent double CD extravaganza „O”, boasting a new, organic, „hyper-real” style, as if Oval had returned as a post-rock / band-version of itself. Both albums combined weigh in at 120+ tracks and once more, Popp was challenging music-as-we-knew-it: Out of nowhere, he emerged as a composer, instrumentalist and studio producer of unexpected versatility, far beyond the electronic music arena.
”Oh” and “O” are truly a wild ride and immediately received honorary mention by the prestigious European Prix Ars Electronica. Both formats were exploring a huge spectrum from delicate, sophisticated pop vignettes to brutally torn, electro-acoustic riffing full of angular, colliding guitar work, accompanied by „free”, yet ultra-precise, acousticdrumming.
The „O” album also included 50 moody vignettes full of handcrafted, polyrhythmic phrases and structures, bristling with tiny resonances and detail, adding up to fluid, timeless tunes that effortlessly traverse rhythms, scales and harmonies while always staying on the catchy side. And despite its picturesque and accessible „songwriter 2.0” trappings, „O” was by no means a kitschy love letter to the music of old.
OVAL DNA, THE META-ALBUM
“Oval DNA” (2012), a 35-track, opus magnum-esque, two-disc (CD + DVD-ROM) multimedia release, took things even further: “Oval DNA” is part rarities-compilation (featuring previously unreleased and hard-to-find tracks from 1993–2010), part ”open source manifesto” (the DVD-ROM contains a library of 2000+ original audio clips) - plus Oval’s „lost” 2007 album, a video documentary, music videos, liner notes, 10 bonus tracks and a piece of music software. „Oval DNA” instantly received very favorable reviews worldwide and has been proclaimed „Best New Reissue” by Pitchfork.com and also won the prestigious ”QWARTZ” multimedia award in Paris, France.
2013’s full-length albums, „Calidostópia!” and „VOA”, both recorded in Salvador De Bahia in Brazil, were the result of a 10-day, blind-date studio session with seven young, hugely talented singers/composers from all over South America. Markus Popp came to Brazil with dozens of loose sketches and came home with more than 30 all-new, outlandishly beautiful songs. Rapid prototyping + unlimited enthusiasm + working around the clock in three shifts resulted in this meta-musical supermerger.
SMASH CUT TO 2016...A CLUB ALBUM!?
With „Popp”, Oval has changed the game all over again: What started as a revisit of the 1990s Oval aesthetic using the latest glitch tools, quickly turned into a deep dive. The result is a club album, Oval-style: A relentless, euphoric love letter to a long-lost musical utopia: Kaleidoscopic and soulful, optimistic and grandiose = fantasy club tracks from an alternate universe. No matter if you choose to trace every single of the many exhilarating, meandering melodies or if you allow yourself to get swept along by the sheer energy of these glitch-infused house tsunamis - "Popp" is a joyous information overload from beginning to end, an exuberant re-imagination of club sound aesthetics (from classic to fantastical). A new kind of club critique, if you will: So 90s, and yet so now.
EKSPLOIO & SCIS (2020)
Oval’s creative process begins with setting the parameters for the project, creating a limited space to work within, and then exploring with all the possible creative avenues within that framework. Where early compositions saw Popp meticulously tinkering with software and systems to reduce his own visible hand in the music, Scis instead sees Popp focus the human element in his creation, augmenting delicate and intensely crafted loops with an array of acoustic instruments. Sounds sourced from prepared pianos, woodwinds and strings were manipulated and sculpted with simulated sounds into intricate and substantial sonic layers. Popp would then record a live playthrough of the pre-constructed loops while adding in instruments from his vast collection of sound samples to shape each song. The resulting pieces have a distinctive freeform, improvised feel to them, never hiding behind “electronic abstraction” but rather engaging in a musical dialog with the listener.
Scis and Eksploio have a distinctive melodic sensibility. Popp approached pieces more as an art director or composer than a producer. Despite running through at a steady 120pm, his impressive command of space and intricate rhythms gives the album a distinctive ebb and flow. “Twirror” acts as an immediate statement of intent with its choice of instrumentation: glistening sitar and staccato piano loop collapsing into an overdriven synth hooks and driving rhythms. “Robussy” and “Fluoresso” quickly open up the field of sound, Popp building and stripping back layers to create a distinct sense of drama even in the album’s more delicate moments. “Pushhh” revisits prior experiments with vocal sampling, this time chaining them to pounding kick drums, anchoring otherwise freeform loops. “Mikk” experiments with more abrasive textures, using urgent, grimey drums and detuned pianos.
Throughout, each sound and instrument was deliberately and painstakingly assembled. Popp explains, “it’s making musical sense of a multitude of software modules sending data to each other. There’s always this balancing act of setting up a process, listening, intervention into the various processes and the traditional playing of (software) instruments. I built these songs clip by clip, sometimes over the course of months.” Meticulous attention to detail and a wide-eyed sense of discovery has enabled Popp to continually innovate with each release. In stepping out from behind his software on Scisand Eksploio, Popp presents his most immediate and affecting work as Oval to date, unveiling a new hypermelodic flavor of electronic music.
OVAL - IMPROG (Official Music Video)
Video by Modellogia
Music: Oval - "Improg", from the album "SCIS" (Thrill Jockey Records, Thrill-514)
Published by Budde Music/Random Noize Musick
Release: Feb. 12, 2020 on Thrill Jockey Records
Markus Popp has continuously refined his instantly recognizable, signature style in numerous projects, most notably with the long-running projects Microstoria (a duo with Jan St. Werner / Mouse On Mars) and SO (with Japanese songwriter Eriko Toyoda). Popp has also worked for/with: Björk, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Apparat, Tortoise, Mouse on Mars, Warren Suicide, Squarepusher, Jim O’Rourke, Pizzicato 5, Gastr Del Sol to name just a few.
Beyond his album releases and remixes, Popp did music for film, installation art, dance pieces and interactive media, designed his own music software (Ovalprocess, an interactive sound installation platform, that won the Prix Ars Electronica ), contributed a secret bonus stage to Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s visionary video games “Rez” and ”Rez Infinite”and did original soundtrack work for fashion brands, contemporary dance pieces, art-house movies and TV commercials (Armani, Comme Des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Prada, SONY, SEGA, Braun, Harmony Korine, Amberley Productions, Masako Tanaka etc). Popp has also written the Libretto for Jan St. Werner’s (Mouse On Mars) Opera „Miscontinuum” and has authored a 1-hour radio feature for German NPR (script, original score, narration) on music and perfume. Finally, over the course of many lectures, workshops and presentations all over the globe, Markus Popp has shared his creative vision, with topics ranging from digital audio workflow to interactive design and video games.
OVAL AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS
2001 Prix Ars Electronica
2010 BBC „2010s Best”
2011 Prix Ars Electronica Honorable Mention
2012 Pitchfork „Best New Reissue”
2012 QWARTZ Award „Best Experimental Music”
2015 QWARTZ Award „Lifetime Achievement Award”
2016 FACT „The Best Post-Rock Album Of All Time”
2016 Treble Magazine „Top 10 Essential Brazilian Albums"
2016 Pitchfork „No. 7 best Ambient album of all time”
+ many more international „Best Of Year”-Lists
(Pitchfork, WIRE, SPEX, De:Bug, FACT etc.)