Boomkat Product Review:
Almost completely unknown in the west, Toshioki Matsumura began composing and producing his own music at the turn of the 1980s. An early adopter of new musical technology, Matsumura explored the possibilities of composing with computers, synthesizers and samplers, which would become a trademark in his early works. Commercially available for the first time anywhere and produced in cooperation with Visual Brains and the artist’s estate for chOOn!!, a label specialising in obscure, archival and forgotten releases.
"Flourishing within the burgeoning worldwide community of experimental video artists, Visual Brains were heralded as pioneers. Japan’s greatest export in the field, they were regularly invited to international festivals, winning multiple awards and accolades in the process. Ironically, recognition did not materialise at home – both Kazama and Ohtsu had to subsidise their art by making videos for large corporations and industrial conglomerates.
As people, they were both inherently political. Their work is suffused with social commentary, satirising modern society’s relationship with media and critiquing the conservative policies held sacred throughout Japan at the time – a culture that prized conformity above all else. Their video art gave them a way to not only express, but record, their worldview and share it with others. They realised this by forging a unique style that merged cutting-edge production techniques, diverse multi-media sources and a fantastical grasp of early computer technology.
Matsumura fashioned multiple soundtracks for their productions in an exceptionally wide range of fields and practices. From arrangements like Human Life which uses repetitive piano figures reminiscent of Philip Glass and Steve Reich to impart a sense of constant motion, to the rippling synth and marimba-type arpeggios of Orange Alert, recalling both mutant-funk forays and Fourth World sounds. Matsumura’s reach is almost exhaustive in its breadth, culminating in the lush exuberance and sparkling synth pop of Par Un Tunnel (Photogram Work #2). He was writing modern music, informed by contemporary developments elsewhere but without the need to meet commercial concerns - there weren’t any. As such, his work has remained even more deeply hidden than his peers.
A Visual Brain collects prime selections from Matsumura’s archives, showcasing him at the peak of his powers and establishing him as a rare, musical voice."