Trailblazing glitch masterpieces (1990s), delicate, hyperreal, futuristic post-rock vignettes (after 2010) and now abstract club bangers with a twist - Markus Popp aka Oval continues to be one of the most prolific, influential forces in contemporary electronic music, a true visionary of digital audio and beyond.
Every Oval album is a different, shape-shifting celebration of innovation, skill & sensibility. In an age of shallow spectacle, M. Popp just keeps on reinventing music - merging uncompromising high tech with compelling musicality. He is distinctly doing his own thing, yet always enthusiastically dealing with the “now”. No one out there plays the computer quite like him.
1990s - THE GLITCH REVOLUTION
The now legendary early Oval album releases like “Systemisch” and “94Diskont.” sent shockwaves through the emerging “electronica” landscape of the mid-1990’s, introducing a radical, unique, new sound and digital production aesthetic. With an undeniable instinct for the pleasantly irritating, the drastic and the dreamy, Oval pioneered “glitch” and “clicks & cuts”, inspiring and provoking an entire generation of musicians to this day. The distinctive, organic appeal of Popp’s early tracks, remixes and albums are considered watershed moments for the genre: Timeless, haunting classics, earning Oval critical acclaim and several media/art awards. For example, Pitchfork.com lists “94Diskont.” as the Top 7 Ambient album of all time.
2010 - HE ONLY CHANGED EVERYTHING
After a long hiatus, Popp returned in 2010 with the “Oh” EP and the subsequent Double-CD “O” boasting a new, “hyper-real” style, as if Oval had reincarnated as a post-rock-esque band version of itself. Both albums weigh at 100+ tracks in total and once more, Popp was challenging music-as-we-know-it...but this time, on music’s own turf. Out of nowhere, Popp emerged as a composer and studio producer of unexpected versatility, far beyond the electronic music arena. “O(h)” - which immediately received a honorary mention by the Prix Ars Electronica - is a wild ride: it is exploring a huge spectrum from delicate, sophisticated pop vignettes to brutally torn, electro-acoustic riffing full of angular, colliding guitar work - all accompanied by “free”, yet ultra-precise, acoustic “live” drumming.
And this new Oval sound also had a lyrical side. “O” also featured no less than 50 ultra moody vignettes: Handcrafted, polyrhythmic phrases and structures, bristling with tiny resonances and detail adding up to fluid, timeless tunes that are effortlessly traversing rhythms, scales and harmonies, yet always staying compact and catchy. And despite its picturesque, accessible “songwriter 2.0” trappings, “O(h)” was by no means a kitschy “love letter to music”.
OVAL DNA, THE META-ALBUM
“Oval DNA” (2012), a 35-track, opus magnum-esque, two-disc (CD + DVD-ROM) multimedia release, took things even further: “Oval DNA” is part rarities-compilation (featuring previously unreleased and hard-to-find tracks from 1993–2010), part open source manifesto (the DVD-ROM contains a sound file library of 2000+ original Oval source clips) - plus Oval’s “lost” 2007 album, a professional video documentary, music videos, liner notes, 10 bonus tracks and a new piece of Oval music software. “Oval DNA” instantly received very favorable reviews worldwide and has been proclaimed “Best New Reissue” by Pitchfork.com and also won the prestigious QWARTZ-Award in Paris, France.
2013’s full-length albums “Calidostópia!” and “VOA”, both recorded in Salvador De Bahia in Brazil, were the result of a 10-day, blind-date studio session with seven young, hugely talented singers/composers from all over South America. Rapid prototyping + unlimited enthusiasm + working in three shifts resulted in a meta-musical supermerger. Markus Popp flew to Brazil with tons of disparate material and came home with more than 30 all-new, outlandishly beautiful songs.
AND NOW...A CLUB ALBUM!?
With “Popp”, Oval changed the game all over again: What started as a re-visit of the 1990s Oval aesthetic using today’s tools, quickly turned into a deep dive. The result is a club (!) album, Oval-style: A relentless, euphoric love letter to a long-lost musical utopia: Kaleidoscopic and soulful, optimistic and grandiose = fantasy club tracks from an alternate universe. No matter if you choose to trace every single of the many exhilarating, meandering melodies or if you allow yourself to get swept along by the sheer energy of glitch-infused house tsunamis - "Popp" is a joyous information overload from beginning to end, an exuberant re-imagination of "club" sound aesthetics (from classic to fantastical). So 90s, so now.
Markus Popp has continuously refined his instantly recognizable, signature style in numerous projects, most notably with the long-running projects Microstoria (a duo with Jan St. Werner / Mouse On Mars) and SO (with Japanese songwriter extraordinaire Eriko Toyoda). Popp has also worked for/with: Björk, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Apparat, Tortoise, Mouse on Mars, Warren Suicide, Squarepusher, Jim O’Rourke, Pizzicato 5, Gastr Del Sol just to name a few.
New additions to the Oval portfolio are audio for film, installation art, dance and interactive media. M. Popp designed his own music software (Ovalprocess, an interactive sound installation platform, that won the Prix Ars Electronica), contributed a secret bonus stage to Tetsuya Mitsuguchi’s visionary video game Rez Infinite (VR) and did original soundtrack work for contemporary dance pieces, art-house movies and TV commercials (Armani, Comme Des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Prada, SONY, SEGA, Braun, Harmony Korine, Amberley Productions, Masako Tanaka etc). Over the course of many lectures, workshops and presentations all over the globe, Markus Popp has shared his creative vision with topics ranging from today’s digital audio workflow to interactive design and video games.
AWARDS & RANKINGS
2001 Prix Ars Electronica
2010 BBC “2010s Best”
2011 Prix Ars Electronica Honorable Mention
2012 Pitchfork “Best New Reissue”
2012 QWARTZ Award “Best Experimental Music”
2015 QWARTZ Award “Lifetime Achievement Award”
2016 FACT “The Best Post-Rock Albums Of All Time”
2016 Treble "Top 10 Essential Brazilian Albums"
2016 Pitchfork “No. 7 Best Ambient Album Of All Time”
Plus many more “Best Of The Year”-Lists by Pitchfork, WIRE, SPEX, De:Bug, FACT etc.