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way, you have to go beyond these protocols."

and software, of wishing to "offensively suggest" the existence of soundworlds "from

Despite, or rather because of, this technology's reliance on "traditional music syntax 'outside' the digital domain", of having invented a "completely new music-paradigm". and semantics", Oval deliberately use the set-up, because thelr real interest a in Says Popp, "Another aspect of what we wanted to achieve musically is to generate a standardisation. Their first Mille Plateaux release Systemisch, explains Sebastian new kind of perception. In the beginning, some labels sent back the demo tapes Oxhatz, "was done with a very cheap MlDl set-up and a borrowed copy of Aphex because they said there's no music on it!" In that respect, Oval's audio-mazes induce Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol 11." This later a 'perceptual d~ssonance'akin to the Op Art of turns out t o be an Oval in-joke; apparently, Bridget Reilly, or the perspectival chaos of Richard James is one of many artists who have Escher. Sebastian adds: "It works the other way: . claimed that Systemisch was based on their obvious mis-pressings on the albums, or DAT material. "That album IS composed of material drop-outs on certain compilation tracks, don't that is really old, and it got edlted, layered and get spotted during the production process!"

recombined so many times, it's stupid to ask whose music is this?" says Popp. "That is the only truly negligible aspect in our music. Most of the CDs we used were rented, and often they didn't have their covers!"

Getting back to MIDI or a samplerlsequencer

Future Oval projects include some kind of EP

for Mille Plateaux; the US release of Systemisch and Diskont, accompanied by "exclusive material, possibly predating Systemisch", via the ultra-cool label Table Of The Elements; and an

'interactive' product designed in collaboration software such as Cubase (the power tool of choice for the post-rave generation), Popp with British computer boffin Richard Ross.

"It's not exactly CD-ROM or hypertext,"

complains that "there is so much determinism within these programs, working with them involves so much compliance to principles that are highly critical. In a social context these technologies are mostly used in a controlling way: monitoring the workplace, workplace explains Popp. "But i t will involve guiding the user through some kind of design-environment,

and basically enabling people t o do Oval records themselves. The working title is 'The

Public Domain Project', and it will Involve a lot of work. We also want t o investigate t he efficiency, optimising the user-interface. On-line newsgroups are full of people who e-mail back t o the manufacturers saying, 'We'll need this,

change that1,and all of this keeps them in front of their computers even longer. Our way of dealing w i t h th i s is t o overcome t h e forthcoming video-disc; maybe there are ways to work with the combination of optical and audio, new potentials. And we are thinking about using the sounds of data processing itself

- t h e sounds t he computer or sampler generate when they calculate or process the manufacturer's distinction between 'features'

and 'bugs'."

sound. There is always sound somewhere in the mixing desk, when stuff is stored or [screen]

Which br i ngs us t o t h e famous Oval window-boxes get closed or opened. We are deployment of deliberately damaged CDs t o generate the raw material of their music: the thinking of recording this because i t a basically the sound of the user-interface itself."

glitches, skips and distressed cyber-muzik that makesSystemisch and its sequel 94 Diskont so ear-boggling. The CD-thang is another

A t t he other extreme f r om Oval's oblique strategies lies Alec Empire's

'reduction' that irks Oval: "We did use CDs, but that is neglectable, there are so many insurrectionary anarcho-Tekno. Empire and the Oval boys appear to have had other things we could have used. . . The important point was that the CD player has some sort of ideological rift, in fact Popp refuses to comment, but Empire makes a no distinction if it's an error or a proper part of the recording, it's just doing veiled jibe about Oval doing "their music from this very intense theory, whereas I do it calculations, algorithms." not only from books but from what I feel."

This recalls Hendrix's aestheticisation of feedback, a 'bug' or Improper effect An engaging fellow who's constantly laughing, usually at his own utterances, Alec immanent i n t he Empire divides his e l ectric guitar bu t hitherto unexploited. energy be tween CC In Techno andJunglethe middle m e n c i e s are taken out, it's recordln, solo Oval reject terms like for ~ille-plateaux(the 'sabotage' to describe aJl bass and treble. But the middlem e n c i e s are the rock guitar sombre E,ctronica of the CD treaments and t h e more esoteric hquencies, it'swhere the aggression comesfrom 99 1 9 9 5 ' s Low On Ice, t h e zany Sun Ra forms of algorithmic mischief they wreak within hardware. But they do use the word "disobedience",which also has a frisson of subversion, and talk, deconstruction-style, of engaging in a kind of non-antagonistic dialogue with corporate digital culture: Sony, IBM, Microsoft, et al.

meets Perez Prado

Contradictions abound In Oval's own rhetoric. They speak in almost punk 'anyone- can-do-it' terms of deliberately keeping their activity at the "lowest entry-level", of not wanting "to convey an image of arcane technology and years of expert study in digital signal processing and programming". Yet their discourse is often absurdly forbidding and user-unfriendly. Then there's the way they deny any musical intentions, only to later come close to characterising their project as an enrichment of music. They talk of not wanting to produce a merely "predictable outcome" of the hardware avant EZ-listening of the new Hypermodem Jazz 2000.5),and fostering the Berlinbased Digital Hardcore scene. This two-pronged campaign reflects Empire's interestingly jumbled background. On one hand, he studied music theory for a while and, unusually for a Techno artist, uses notation when composing his own music. On the other hand, he was a breakdancer at the age of ten and playing in a punk group by the time he was 12.

At the end of the 8 0 s Empire got swept up in Berlin's underground party xene. Despite being anti-drugs himself, he embraced Acid's cult of oblivion.

"For a lot of people at the Acid parties, i t was about escaping from reality. At the t ime i t made sense, politics seemed futile, with the Left dead, and even the autonomists seeming like silly klds rioting for fun." Continuedon page 66

30 The Wire

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