Oval's Chicago debut, at the Empty Bottle in 1998, highlighted the limitation every computer musician has to overcome: a concert where there's nothing to see onstage but some guy chewing gum and typing into a Powerbook is only marginally more exciting than watching a laptop jockey in a coffee shop check his E-mail. But in the last year or so Markus Popp, the Berlin-based artist who for years has been the sole member of Oval, has transformed his act into something much more engaging. Instead of simply re-creating pieces from his discs, he plugs his computer into a mixing deck and tweaks and recombines sound files like a DJ layering and scratching records. He also puts a bit of body English into his act, bobbing and weaving from one piece of hardware to another--it's not about to make Destiny's Child nervous, but it certainly helps his stage presence. And the music has changed accordingly: On early albums like Systemisch and 94diskont, Popp looped clicks and tones sampled from defaced CDs into plush, narcotic audio environments. But the 11 unnamed tracks on his latest, Commers (Thrill Jockey), burst with brilliant whistles, alarm-buzzer rhythms, and crunching riffs carved from blocks of static. In a word, it rocks. Adult and DJ Tommie Sunshine open. Saturday, July 7, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. That afternoon at 2, Oval gives a free in-store performance at Borders Books & Music, 830 N. Michigan; 312-573-0564.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.