PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Oval: Popp

Popp goes beyond the cerebral and scattered surface that it first projects to become something far more affirming, revelatory, and perhaps even joyful.


Oval

Popp

Label: Uovooo
US Release Date: 2016-10-14
UK Release Date: 2016-10-14
Amazon
iTunes

Some phenomena are undetectable except for the impact they have on their environment. Black holes, for instance, are by definition invisible, but their existence can be inferred by the total absence of light within their bounds. Tornadoes, too, are not directly observable per se; instead, one merely sees the dust, gas, and debris caught in their vortex. Listening to Popp, the latest release by glitch pioneers Oval (now mostly just a vehicle for Markus Popp), one gets the sense that a similar phenomenon is afoot here. This is an album composed of synthetic detritus, scraps of sound that whir and buzz in what at first sounds like chaos. As you spend more time with it, however, you come to perceive patterns among the movements. The overcrowded surface conceals, but also indicates, powerful currents below that operate by their own internal logic, shaping what ultimately amounts to an intricate and satisfying listening experience.

If Popp is a tornado, it is one that barrels through music archives where every pitch-altered vocal sample from the past ten years is filed away, shredding them into bite-size units before carrying them along in its path. The album's monosyllabic and largely abstract song titles -- such as "ai", "fu", "sa", and "ve" -- are indicative of its hyperactive metabolic rate, breaking everything down into digits as numerous and minuscule as pixels on a computer screen. There are vocals here, or at least bits that sound like vocals, but they have been disintegrated and digitized into abstraction. Other song titles, like "id", "re", and most notably, "my", drift closer towards meaningfulness and actual representational language. Mostly, though, the thesis of Popp lies not in any direct transmission of meaning, but in the patterns that emerge among the churning sonic debris.

The album walks a line between playful and serious. It is frenetic and hyperactive yet solitary and contained, like playing a game of ping pong (or maybe just Pong) against oneself. Indeed, the popping, pitter-pattering texture of "my" evokes the strangely satisfying sound of a ball hitting a hard surface. In the way that a night spent alone in the dark on one's laptop might produce a kind of addled, stimulated solitude, an asocial euphoria, Markus Popp searches paradoxically for limitlessness within a set of confines and parameters. It is in the tension created between boundaries and expansiveness that the album achieves its high.

During its first half, Popp sounds like it might end up being one of those conceptually and sonically intriguing albums that nonetheless fails to make an impact due to a lack of pathos and variation. After all, any given thirty-second snippet taken from the first five tracks would serve as a pretty good indicator for the rest. This creates a static, stationary dynamic, like observing a piece in a museum. Things start to change around "lo", however, which introduces heavier, more aggressive drums that sound like something out of DJ Shadow's Endtroducing…... Popp continues to accumulate heaviness as it progresses, culminating in the highlight "mo", which balances twinkling, Exorcist-like bells with propulsive beats and an abstracted but oddly warm vocal sample.

By the time Oval leaves us with "ve", one is left with the remnants of a surprisingly visceral, if private, experience. "ve" is the sound of sunlight entering again through the curtains, bringing to a close a solitary evening spent in the digital light of a computer screen. While withdrawal of this type is often frowned upon in Western society, which gluts itself on personalized technology while also remaining deeply suspicious of it, Oval suggests that such experiences can be regenerative, that they can be sources of energy that help us ultimately to return to the world. In the end, Popp goes beyond the cerebral and scattered surface that it first projects to become something far more affirming, revelatory, and perhaps even joyful.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.