"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Exuberant bullseye

So much to love in Oh (& O too, what little of its 70-track grandiloquence has come my way - hear & d/l Ah! below) that its lovability is as good a jumping-off point as any. I don’t expect this year to bring a more exuberantly joyous album, one more obviously giddy with the thrill of wielding its almost flamboyantly pruned palette of thwacks, crashes, trills, tones & squirts.

Those thwacks & crashes are Oh’s bullseye, its inner circle. It is remorselessly percussive. Even beatless vamps like the early kastell sediment featurette sequence are squealingly, pingily physical (enhanced by such ravishing, Monolake-class sound it wouldn’t be surprising to find Rashad Becker was involved…).

So it’s a total departure from glitchy ur-Oval? Hardly –- although less revolutionary in his new guise, Popp remains as impeccably post-modern as ever. But where his earlier version insisted on lifting the veil, the happy accident turned working method of his glitches highlighting all of the partiality & chance of the music’s construction, to these ears Oval’s return is all about jouissance.

Oh is deeply playful. Not just in that little yelp half-hidden in locria or, more obviously, in the concluding happyend 2 (or, to cast the net wider, in the all but perfect poptronica of Ah!’s faux-naif melodies). But fundamentally as well.

It is a ‘true’ play of surfaces – glistening, showy (hey’s drums! grrr’s ratcheting!), shameless.

This too is a deep connection with Oval’s past. That’s the point, I suppose. Throughout his long trip from pioneer to connoisseur Popp has been more than anything a master manipulator of texture. He still is.

Colin's right, of course. Performance is the essence of the new Oval. Not that the glitchy version wasn’t a form of performance too. But the striking difference between them – which we’re all marvelling/puzzling/fretting over – is one of choice.

Glitch is a celebration of relinquishing choice. Not just making room for chance & randomness, but foregrounding it & making something beautiful or at least compelling out of it.

Now Popp has taken back much of the decision-making in his music. Or, alternatively, has started wanting to put on display a kind of rhetoric of composition.

Before what was displayed was if not anti-composition then certainly a space in which the accidental is the deliberate’s equal. No longer: Oh feels very proudly ‘composed’ (though no doubt all sorts of happy accidents feed into it, that clangy, pinging palette in particular…).

There’s a connection here to Marc’s question of whether Popp is merely moving “from micro to macro…breaking up music into much larger chunks than he was previously”. As I read it, the suspicion that something more is going on is well founded.

That something more is Popp’s romantic/heroic turn – or rather a gesture in that direction. It’s not so much a matter of macro versus micro or real against artifice as it is composer/manipulator/performer versus system.

Oh’s not the apparently disembodied product of a system in the way that 94diskont or, er, systemisch are. I’m reluctant to say it’s fully composed & performed (this is looping, computed electronica, after all). But its tropes all lie in that direction.

Why? Joshua has put an acute finger on it, surely: “electronic music has thoroughly absorbed the sorts of glitchery he introduced…”

So the logical next move is deglitching – albeit that compositional & even improvisational tics (Oh’s pruned-back palette has several – like that snappy quasi-percussive ping that many of the EP’s later tracks are built around) are a kind of glitch too…

NB: above is an edit of the first two of LMYE's contributions to a disquiet-hosted discussion of Oval's Oh that is live this week. Please join us!

Oval > Ah! (from O, forthcoming on Thrill Jockey)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

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