Oval – 94 Diskont

‘94 Diskont’ was the fourth album by German electronic group Oval, originally released in 1995. It was their final release as a three-piece before the departure of Sebastian Oschatz and Frank Metzger, which left Markus Popp to continue Oval as a solo project. 

The album, along with companion piece ‘Systemisch’, is credited with pioneering glitch, or “clicks and cuts” music. Oval’s innovative style was created by recording music onto CDs, and then defacing them with felt tip pens, paint and tape. The music would then be chopped up and stitched back together in loops, punctuated by the rhythmic skips now physically present on the disks themselves.

CDs were initially designed to be a pristine format for audio playback. Unlike vinyl and cassette, the unspoiled CD was entirely free of surface noise; they were effectively designed to be invisible. As Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson puts it, “before Oval, no one heard the CD. They [only] heard the music on CD.”  

The standout track is 24-minute opener ‘Do While.’ The amorphous ambient piece consists of little more than a vibraphone sample, a bassy drone and a percussive shuffle – but the music’s otherworldly nature and apparent randomness are what makes it so impressive. It was originally composed for an 8-channel, 128-speaker modular sound installation called Wohnton (“home tone”), which was shown in art exhibitions and techno raves throughout Europe between 1994 and 1996.

’94 Diskont’ received both praise and controversy for its styling methods, and drew comparisons with Brian Eno, Aphex Twin and Autechre for it’s innovative use of technology. It was re-released on vinyl in 2017 by Thrill Jockey.