I could review something romantic like the English Patient or the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, but thats not what I'm feeling right now. Or maybe what is most romantic to me is modem noises and bursts of static. That's right, its Oval. Marcus Popp is a German producer who has remixed a ton of songs, collaborated with many other electronic artists, and put out several albums of his own. But this isn't some synth-driven mood maker like Freescha. This is pure insanity. Now, I'm not exactly into all that noise-tronica or glitch you hear about, like later Autechre or radio-unfriendly Black Dice. But they do have their merits, and while Oval too is abrasive, sterile, and often sounds like a modem's hardware handshake, there are moments, and occasionally entire songs that make it all worthwhile.
Because I am not overly familiar with Oval's discography, though I have much of it, I can only recommend the artist himself. He has several albums, but the ones I have heard are Ovalcommers, Ovalprocess and Dok (as well as the side project So), and though there are some differences, they are much the same sound and I suppose one is as good a place to start as any. For what it's worth, Dok is more atmospheric and warm, Ovalcommers is louder and more chaotic, and Ovalprocess is the most "instrumentated" of the three, or so I think. So was a collaboration with a singer that is also quite good and is like Ovalprocess plus voice. This seriously is not music for the faint of heart. I don't usually say that kind of thing because I don't need to be telling people what they like, but Oval may be among the strangest and most abrasive music in my entire collection. However, it is also one of the most distinctive and interesting. Once you get past the fact that it sounds like you're inside a monster computer exploding in slow motion, there are some extremely beautiful and stark moments to be experienced: the ringing iridescence of "Reversioning" on Dok, the repetitive, snapping growl of Ovalcommers' opening track, the hidden beat and perverted harmony of Ovalprocess' track 8 or its opener's electronic swallow.
To be honest, this music has an extremely limited appeal and I'm okay with that. This isn't going on a dance party CD, or a driving CD, a mix CD, your iPod, or even into regular rotation. Lord knows I don't listen to it all the time. But every time I come back to it I am amazed at Oval's totally unique sound and the depth Popp can draw from such abrasive, frozen noise.