After Oval’s Oh Comes O’s “Ah!” (MP3)

By definition, we will only listen to the track for the first time once. After that, every time the brittle gauze expands and hovers during the opening half of “Ah!” from the forthcoming album O by Oval, we’ll know that the jazz-like instrumentation will soon cut in (MP3). Note: That’s jazz-like, not jazz-light. The minor plinks and planks and the softly shuddering disruptions in that initial haze will be supplanted — as signaled thanks to one fairly firm cymbal clash — by casual drums that sounds like drum’n’bass being played on a rudimentary kit, or like free jazz being constrained by a populist instinct, and by tentatively held chords, like something Herbie Hancock must have tried out when he first laid his piano-trained hands on a Rhodes piano.


That Hancock association may come to mind because O symbolizes a similarly significant shift for the musician who recorded it. Oval is Markus Popp, who is perhaps the musician most associated with “glitch” music, that is with spartan electronica built from all the fidgety mistakes and technical errors we associate with digital technology. Yet with “Ah!” (as on Oh, the new album he has due out on Thrill Jockey at the start of June, his first in close to a decade), almost half of what we hear is anything but digital: it’s all rough, rusty, dusty, “real-world” instrumentation. And rather than cut up recordings of those instruments into something as broken as his glitch music, Oval has those tools display their own herky-jerky tendencies, embracing all their idiosyncratic textural implications.

Full track list at More info on the album Oh here:

7 thoughts on “After Oval’s Oh Comes O’s “Ah!” (MP3)

  1. Do I sense some hesitation to embrace this shift in oval’s sound/approach in your text? I feel like you want to say more against it, but that you’re holding back for some reason…. v.

  2. Interesting. Thanks for mentioning that. No hesitance intended. If anything, I am a little anxious about gushing, because this is very much a first impression, and I want to sit with the material. (I’m more interested in thinking about something than being first to get the news out.) I’m enjoying Oh, and “Ah!” is the only track I’ve heard so far of O, its followup.

    I can’t help but hear this album amid the recent new work by Autechre, Amon Tobin, and Funki Porcini, all of whom are sort of peers from that period of time. Autechre’s recent record was, to me, an enormous disappointment, as was the slightly less recent Tortoise. These are all acts who had a sound, and now a decade or so hence are trying to evolve, some more successfully than others. I think Amon Tobin has come the furthest.

    As for the recent Oval, I am pleased so far with my repeated listens. It’s exciting to hear him working in this previously unassociated sonic realm. I think it’s a good sign that I don’t quite know what to make of it. Around the six-months mark of every year, I do a first consideration of what will eventually be my favorite records of that year, and right now it seems highly likely that Oh will be on it. (As for O, I have yet to hear its other 69 tracks.)

  3. Thanks for your response! My first impression of this track was less than flattering, to be honest. I thought the drums were placed too far back in the mix, and that the melodies sounded too much like Caribou when he was recording as Manitoba.

    I can’t say I’ve ever truly warmed to the Oval aesthetic though. I guess I found other artists working in this field to do more interesting things, sonically speaking (including Autechre and Amon Tobin, as well as Vladislav Delay and Kit Clayton).

    Contrary to your thoughts on the new Autechre release, I find it to be completely absorbing, and thoroughly detailed and well-produced. I think it’s a great jazz record, truth be told!

    I’ll be happy to give ‘Oh’ and ‘O’ a chance to breathe, once I’ve secured my hands on a copy of each!

    Thanks, v.

  4. The sound to me didn’t sound like a Rhodes at all. Sounded more like an eq’ed electric guitar played with the two handed technique. Not all that difficult. But to hear one little loop over all that time got really boring really fast. The drums sure didn’t help it either. Is this his version of Rock and Roll?

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