Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy

January 01, 1970


Like a Japanese Brian Wilson
without any brothers to sing along, Shugo Tokumaru constructs psychedelic-pop
mini-symphonies that balance intricacy and freshness. The Tokyo one-man-band’s new album, Port Entropy, continues his move out of
the shadows of his debut, 2004’s Night
, and into the sunshine.

The timbres are similar to those of the laptop-studio maestro’s 2007
masterpiece, Exit. Tokumaru prefers acoustic instruments and tinkly textures,
decorating his simple guitar strums with banjo, xylophone, shamisen, wooden
flute and toy piano, among many others. (He reportedly plays more than 50
instruments.) But where his previous album centered on such stately slo-mo
chorales as “La La Radio,” such Port
romps as “Rum Hee” — an actual hit in the underground
popster’s homeland — are brisker and brighter.

This has led to some criticism from Western hipsters. Like kindred spirit Cornelius,
Tokumaru was raised on the chirpy tunes that are ubiquitous in Japan — heard
everywhere from TV commercials to high-speed trains — and doesn’t reject their
naive sweetness. Yet the musician’s surrealistic lyrics, which mix Japanese
with nonsense syllables and stray bits of English, are derived from dream
journals and can be a little ominous. The ones I’ve seen translated (all from
earlier releases) are heavy on traditional-Japanese images of nature and
changing seasons, but also include visions of desolation and disorientation. So
don’t assume that Tokumaru can’t see the whole world from his bedroom studio.
As it progresses from the ebulliently upbeat “Lahaha” to the
sumptuously midtempo “Suisha” (“waterwheel”), Port Entropy is meatier than its preschool-friendly
refrains suggest.

DOWNLOAD: “Rum Hee,” “Lahaha,”

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