I Saw the Outer Limits


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"I am not interested in sounds that already exist." Thus spoke the esteemed "onkyo designer" Matsuo Ohno, early in his expansive, influential career. This reissue of his stellar 1978 LP "I Saw the Outer Limits" presents him at the peak of his powers, combining his mastery of classic analog tape music techniques (honed to perfection whilst providing sound design for "Astro Boy" and numerous other films and TV programs) with then-state-of-the-art analog synthesizers. This is a true under-recognized classic, a masterfully recorded, massive-sounding poetic construction of unearthly sound, an undulating, breathing behemoth, with Ohno's galaxy moving beyond "sounds that already exist" in search of new sonic spaces.

   Matsuo Ohno was born in Kanda, in central Tokyo, in 1930. The relentless bombing onslaught of the war years, the near-apocalyptic conditions, were defining, formative forces. As a youth he was interested in surrealism and philosophy, and was uninfluenced by music and musicians — an exception being the electronic works of Karlheinz Stockhausen, especially his "Gesang der Jünglinge" ("Song of the Youths"), which inspired him further in his quest to create "unearthly sounds." Other early influences were the film director Fumio Kamei and the dramatist Michio Kato; rather than viewing himself as a musician, and never studying under any masters, Ohno has forged his own path as the original "onkyo sound" artist, defining himself as an "onkyo designer" in the 1960s.

   His innate independent streak manifested itself early on, when, chafing under creative restrictions and unhappy with the low esteem in which his efforts were viewed by his hierarchical "betters", Ohno left a prestigious post at NHK, Japan's national broadcaster. But of course his skills were in high demand and he was extremely busy as a freelance sound designer for a wide range of films, television shows and radio programs, developing his ear and his technical savvy. In 1963 he began his most famed efforts, providing sound design for the legendary Japanese animation series "Astro Boy," with Takehisa Kosugi as his assistant.

   The 1978 LP "I Saw the Outer Limits," reissued here, was the first full-length non-soundtrack release by Matsuo Ohno. The record was a huge step for him, being non-programmatic music, designed to stand alone, free of visual imagery. Ohno himself has stated that he was uninterested in notions of message, expression and representation. Ohno had nothing to do with the title and subtitle of this album. Shinji Hinoki, a producer at Toho Records, approached Ohno with the offer of releasing an album; Hinoki perhaps envisioned something to cash in on the popularity of the synth-driven elements of Pink Floyd — what he got was something much more abstract and otherwordly. Hinoki supplied both title and subtitle, including the latter's variant spelling of "marijuana," a ploy to evade Japanese censors.

   On these recordings, made at Sogosha in Tokyo, his private studio, Ohno used the AMS Synthi AKS, which at that time in Japan carried a price close to that of a family car, the newly released Roland System 100 (three of these, in fact), and a custom-made synth. He combined these synthesizers with his virtuosic control of analog tape recording techniques, resulting in a magnificent LP. The original vinyl release was, however, somewhat marred by 50 Hz hum generated during the mastering process at Toho Studios. This EM reissue of "I Saw the Outer Limits" restores the masterpiece to its primal, clear, massive glory.

<CD version>
+ Incl. a bonus mini-CD reissue of a rare "Play on Animals (Choju Gigaku)" [EM1094CD]
+ Foldout thick paper sleeve

+ A miniature reproduction of "Play on Animals (Choju Gigaku)", which has been reissued on 7" (rated as one of 2011's top releases by Byron Coley of The Wire)
+ Pressed on a mini-CD (8cm) and packed in a triple foldout sleeve, same style as a original 1970 issue, and is inserted in the EM1098CD sleeve.


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This product was added to our catalog on Friday 24 February, 2012.

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