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.