Record Review 

For 10 years, Germany's Markus Popp has been releasing music as Oval. It's an appropriate name for Popp's ongoing, upgrading project, which combines warped, wavering loops through Popp's personally designed computer program, Ovalprocess (also the name of his last album). Usually, the result is somewhere between minimalism and musique concrete. To some, what gains the most attention is Oval's process -- which has been incorporated into museum installations -- not his product. He combines digital detritus (the sound of skipping CDs and scratch tracks), algorithms and aesthetic theories about what should constitute and represent the creative process. Oval is attempting to reshape the digital workspace, but is Oval the shape of things to come?

Oval's music is certainly appropriate for the Internet age. At times the warm, clicking tracks of Oval's new album, Commers, sound like the transfer of data packets along unsteady phone lines. Like a graphics-heavy Web page, different aspects of Oval's music load intermittently at their own indeterminable pace. Commers is a much heavier, fuller album than the environmentally unobtrusive ovalprocess. While the sound on ovalprocess drones, Oval's proclaimed rock album Commers has all the bounce of a cursor set to blink rapidly across the screen, streaming surgically dissected samples.

But if a computer can be left alone to make music, doesn't that remove the most integral impetus from the music-making process -- connecting emotionally with a human audience? Doesn't it remove the historical impact? While different camps will continue their debate on the implications of the Oval process, Commers speaks volumes on Popp's continued ability to make subtle, coarsely smoothed rhythmic and random connection with listeners.

Oval performs at The Earl Tues., June 26.


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