I had never heard of Oval or of "glitch" music before coming across this album, which was offered as a free MP3 download at Amazon for a short introductory period. After hearing a couple tracks, it definitely made me want to find out more about the music, the artist and what I was hearing.
Oval is a band that used to be a three-piece but now apparently consists solely of Germany's Markus Popp. The musical genre is called "glitch", and the main idea is the use of sound artifacts from CDs -- mainly deliberately mutilated CDs, such as those where the playing surface has been written over with a marker -- to create new music. This extends on the old DJ idea of scratching as well as the tape-based music techniques used at various times by 20th century composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen or Steve Reich (or even David Byrne and Brian Eno). I also felt there was a certain affinity to Germany's industrial music from a couple of decades ago.
There is a fascinating interview with Markus Popp up on YouTube, in which he explains his technique and the ideas behind it. He talks about his technique "replacing the creative process", which I actually don't buy for a second no matter how sophisticated that sounds. This is highly creative music, and I found it strangely listenable. Many tracks have a clear dominant beat, and some are even in clear 4/4 time with (at least an implied) backbeat and identifiable chord structures. However, the nature of the technique, with multiple loops occurring simultaneously and independently of each other, can result in multiple time signatures, if it makes sense to talk of time signatures at all. It sounds a bit chaotic at first, but that is quickly overcome.
A large amount, or perhaps a majority of the sounds on the album definitely sound like mutilated samples of quiet, laid-back solo guitar, or other stringed instruments (for example, I think I'm hearing a Japanese koto or sitar on a track now as I write this, and a harp a couple of tracks ago -- although I could be mistaken). I have listened to some of the earlier stuff by Oval up on public sources, and this record definitely has a different, more guitar-focused, stripped-down sound. Lots of simple notes and harmonics. Very delicate sounding a lot of the time. There are a lot of sounds created by the plucking of strings by human fingers, which I imagine is part of Oval's thematic intention.
CD 1 consists mainly of longer tracks (20 tracks at roughly 1 to 4.5 minutes) while CD 2 has mainly shorter vignettes (50 tracks up to 2 minutes, but mostly well under 1.5 minutes).
Highly creative music with a ton of points for technical innovation and theoretical grounding. But I have some questions that are making me wish I had CD liner notes instead of the zero information that comes with the MP3 download. The biggest one is who is playing the drums? I suspect the band might not consist only of Markus Popp anymore, unless he is also a drummer. Many of the pieces on the first disc have a drum track that is clearly being played by a person and not stripped from a mutilated CD. Perhaps Oval has re-expanded into a two-piece or more, I'm not sure, but there is something going on here.
Highly recommended! Really outstanding. But that doesn't mean you won't hate it. I'm absolutely, 100% sure this music won't appeal to everyone. But it is two CDs worth of head-spinning, toe-tapping 21st century avant-garde. If that's what you are looking for, you are in the right place.