Running to 70 tracks, O is both thrilling and rewarding.
Colin Buttimer 2010-09-08
O is Oval's first long-play release in a decade, following the release of an EP, Oh. Both works reveal a very different sound from Oval's exploration of digital distortion. O comprises 70 tracks over a total of almost two hours. Oval released their first album, Wohnton, in 1993 and worked as a trio until 1995 when founding members Frank Metzger and Sebastian Oschatz departed, leaving Markus Popp to continue alone.
With O, Markus Pop has reinvented Oval using new techniques to produce a challenging sound world that's simultaneously exhausting and fascinating. If the listener survives the feeling of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of compositions, their predominantly brief length and the amount of detail that can be heard in each track, O is both thrilling and rewarding.
Panorama is a surprising opener, beatific and lulling in its effect, the sound distinctly synthetic. ah! follows, driven by energetic, acoustic drumming that sits back in the mix behind sheets of melodic texture. Anyone acquainted with Oval's previous work will recognise the novelty of traditional percussion here. Later, Dolo glides forward on delicate harmonics and chimeric percussion. Although synthetic, Oval's new sound world appears to be physically triggered rather than the result of programming, at times sounding like plucked or hammered strings.
Listened to closely, each track reveals a precise and jewel-like structure, while in its totality O refuses any intimation of form that might restrict the experience of listening to it. Tracks such as cinematic or sky could be repeated over and over as a sonic backdrop. There's a paradoxical sense of focused indeterminacy at play. With its constant changes in tempo, O appears to stretch time elastically, becoming seemingly endless.