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. Popp approached pieces more as an art director or composer than a producer. Meticulous attention to detail and a wide-eyed sense of discovery has enabled Popp to continually innovate with each release.
Latest album Scis and its companion EP Eksploio (both released by Thrill Jockey) see the producer focus on composition, working with a fresh palette of sounds to create his most emotive work to date. Popp injects a newfound playfulness into his complex loop architectures, with both album and EP exploring and subverting elements of club music. The intricate, organic drum sounds Popp introduced on the Oh! EP and O album have here been replaced with driving electronic rhythms, albeit still approached by Popp as an instrumentalist rather than a beat-maker. 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.
In December 2021 Oval released Ovidono, an auditory art project by feat. Vlatka Alec, a fascinating scenario for a new kind of musical storytelling. Sensual, dazzling and multi-layered, the project – initially code-named “ASMR 2.0” – combines a new interpretation of the epic, timeless poetry of Ovid and Ono No Komachi (performed in Japanese by Eriko Toyoda aka SO) with Oval’s electroacoustic compositions, post-digital soundscapes, and ambitious vocal processing. The complex, whispered vocalizations evoke the tactile, immersive quality and intimacy of ASMR.
Merging the latest version of the complex, hypnotic Oval sound – no stone was left unturned in Markus’s research for this project – with the scintillating, electronically intertwined vocal performances by Vlatka and Eriko creates a sophisticated, intimate dialogue, an experience of a third music waiting to be discovered, a felt entity that effortlessly crosses boundaries of time, language, and technique.
Ovidono wants to create a place of musical longing, inviting you into a surreal garden of sound, whose hybrid poetry and design language instantly generate their own emotional pull – a lucid, intoxicating deep dive into an emotional limbo, playfully drawing new meanings out of poetry beloved for over a thousand years.
“This entire goddamn album is brilliant.” – Brainwashed on Ovidono
“It’s a great example of Popp’s talent for making ambitious experiments sound both playful and coy.” – PITCHFORK / 7
“Eksploio and Scis are surface-level belters that reveal further angles and avenues with each listen” – THE WIRE
“Oval’s Markus Popp is one of the few electronic artists to provide a strong challenge to Aphex Twin and Autechre’s well-guarded thrones” – TREBLEZINE
“Temporally unfixed and sonically unmoored, Scis is actually pretty psychedelic stuff.” – MAGNET MAGAZINE
“Scis once again proves how far-sighted Markus Popp can think after 27 years of his career – and above all how far-sighted he sounds.” – STREETCLIP / 8
“His new album »Scis« sounds like the perfect synthesis of the bubbly, swirling sounds of the early oval releases and the intricate rhythmic figures that shaped Popp’s more recent releases” – HHV MAGAZINE
“Prescient maverick Markus Popp minces our swedes with the schizzy, quantum mechanics and avant-pop appeal of his first new Oval album in six years.” – BOOMKAT
“It pays homage to himself, to the 1990s, and at the same time explores sound aesthetics from club culture.” – DEUTSCHLAND FUNK KULTUR
“With Popp, the only thing that’s for sure is that nothing’s for sure, which is why he has remained relevant for so long, and why we suspect he’ll remain relevant for decades to come.” – A CLOSER LISTEN
“Just as vibrant and full of wonder as Popp, Scis is another imaginative, unpredictable world of sound.” – ALLMUSIC 4/5
“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.” – CIRCUIT SWEET
“Oval’s thirst for merging new sounds never ends” – FREQ
“Scis demonstrates that, 27 years into his recording career, Markus Popp is still managing to come off forward-thinking and forward-sounding.” – EXCLAIM / 7/10
“What previous albums such as “Popp” only heralded now unfolds here as one joyride through the appliances of an exceptional brain.” – SPEX
“In the end, bot Popp and his machines come on top. What we get in these ten new compositions on Scis is yet another set of creative human/machine interaction that pushes the boundaries of electronica further on. What next?” – ECHOES AND DUST)
“Oval’s brief 2019 offering is a fast, exhilarating ride through the futuristic musical mind of Markus Popp, and a joyous preview of the full-length album that awaits fans in early 2020.” – POP MATTERS
“Oval’s freedom with his ingredients brings to mind Oneohtrix Point Never’s more recent output. ” – NORMAN RECORDS: The 10 Best Albums You May Have Missed in January 2020
“You can dance to Scis, surely, but doing so well would require the reconfiguration – and sometimes the outright suspension — of your kinetic habits.” – THE BATTLEGROUND