Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Shugo Tokumaru - Port Entropy


I think its important to come clean straight away about two things. One, when I was a little girl, my best friend’s name was Shirley. She was Japanese. She would bring rice candies to school and share them with me. You know, the ones covered in edible rice paper. Epic. I thought she was from another planet. A planet I wished I was from. Second, Polyvinyl has my heart. Aloha, 31 Knots, Ida, Of Montreal? Must I go on?

With the aforementioned in mind, I give you Shugo Tokumaru. He is of course on Polyvinyl and he is of course from Japan. Recipe for a biased review? I guess you’ll just have to keep reading.

This is Tokumaru’s fourth full length and it’s appropriately entitled, Port Entropy. Entropy means energy. (I know, I was paying attention in science class.) Specifically it means random energy. Fast-moving random energy. In the sea of music, this is indeed port entropy. It’s random and it’s fast and it seems to move in all directions at once.

The entropy seems to settle in a good way with lead single, “Lahaha,” which employs the use of flute, guitar, accordion, chimes, xylophone, and piano, to name a few. Shugo is known for this multi-instrumentational approach. His cacophony of circa 100 instruments, which he all plays himself, also works nicely on the stripped-down, piano-driven ballad, “Linne”, a song that stands as the lone somber track on the record. “Laminte” is mellowed out and a welcome break from the merriment, as well, until the last 10 seconds which read like a xylophonic temper tantrum. Completely unsettling, but at least interesting.

The rest of the record is one sunny slap in the face after the other which is, perhaps, my only complaint. Although obviously and ridiculously talented, Shugo seems to be a one trick pony. It’s all poppy, happy whimsy. It’s like being a kid and skipping down the sidewalk as fast as you can on a perfect 75 degree day, an ice cream cone in one hand and a lollipop in the other. If it wasn’t so sweet and so much, I might be able to stomach it. But it’s too much. Too disorienting. Though I should say this is less of a musical critique than it is pure preference. It’s just that I tend to think less is more, not to mention the outrageously happy tone of the album doesn’t so much agree with the Daria in me.

In fact, the Daria in me kind of wants to kick it around a bit. In the mud. It’s just too shiny. Like a pair of new, white tennis shoes. And it causes me to question it’s authenticity. Like, what does this dude do in his spare time? I’m thinking crafts. He’s probably making a snowman out of cotton balls as I type…for his Grandma.

But this is not to say I don’t enjoy the album, because I do. Or I did. That is to say, this is not a record I’ll be coming back to again and again. But others are going to dig it for sure. It’s unique and it’s well-crafted and it’s melodic. It has really fantastic moments. And just because it’s too much for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be the perfect concoction for you. Speaking of, I will say that apart from the music, I want whatever Shugo’s having. Maybe it’s those crazy rice candies.

Buy Port Entropy

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