Review Summary: Lo-fi glitch, either made by a genius or a monkey.
Electronic music, unlike almost all other genres of music, is virtually unfettered by instrumental limitations. For this reason, experimentation can diverge so far from the mainstream that it can hardly sound like music. The masters of glitch, Oval, have often seen their career veer down this path, as some of their records are only listenable from a purely academic standpoint. With 94 Diskont, however, the group took a detour producing a highly influential record of great beauty.
Some people may argue that a piece of art should be able to stand alone and require no context to fully appreciate. This, in my opinion, cannot be done with 94 Diskont. If Oval were to provide a mission statement for their work, it would surely be about their commitment to reinventing the process of making music (hence the name of their later album and music software, Ovalprocess). To construct many of the songs, recordings were scratched, warped, and mutilated, then replayed and rerecorded. The results are electrifying.
The opening track (and the first half of the album) is Do While. The piece, clocking in at just over twenty-four minutes, is a loop of three notes from a bell and three ascending notes from an organ. A shimmering percussive noise dances behind this simple melody. The song evolves slowly with time, each loop slightly different from the last. Its distorted and warm texture makes the song particularly emotive. If the drone of Do While does not kill you, repeated listens of the track reveal subtle intricacies that make it a masterpiece.
The remainder of the album draws heavily on Oval’s “click’s and cuts” style. In each of the songs, it sounds as if a recording was chopped up into pieces only to be crudely pasted back together. The glue that binds these sound bites is a soft and steady clicking. This technique is showcased best on Shop In Store. The song alternates between lilting violin and keyboard parts, each driven by the familiar click, click, clicking beat. These songs bear a similar aesthetic to the album’s opener, but in a less subdued sense.
Whether or not you can tolerate 94 Diskont’s unorthodox sound, it is hard not to see its influence on music since its production. Though few artists would categorize their music as pure, unadulterated glitch, the genre’s influence can now be heard in electronica, dance, and even on the outskirts of pop music. This album will always remain a classic because of its originality and timelessness.