Shugo Tokumaru Port Entropy(Polyvinyl) Buy it from Insound
Some artists manage to capture the imagination and attention of the world at large, and change the world with their music. Shugo Tokumaru is not one of those artists, and his latest release Port Entropy won't likely make him an overnight sensation. But Shugo's relative obscurity is not for lack of talent. The multi-talented instrumentalist certainly knows his way around a guitar, and a keyboard, and a banjo, and a musical saw, and about 150 other instruments.
Unfortunately, his compositions are often too busy. Multiple instruments carry along the melody of a piece at any given time, which tends to smooth out the imperfections and sparseness that gives a piece of music its soul. The result of all this meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail is an underwhelming album of technical showmanship and dense filler.
But taken in short bursts, Port Entropy is captivating. Most songs rush along at a frenetic sugar-rush pace, with Shugo filling up the gaps of every song with yet another instrument. His ability to load countless, unique instruments and rhythms into each piece is impressive, yet tiring. Of particular note are the polyrhythmic pots and pans of Tracking Elevator and the fast-slow dynamics of Drive-thru. But without any room given in the songs for the tracks to settle, all the noise fails to gather meaning.
So it comes as no surprise that the album’s slowest track is its best. The plaintive Linne, carried along by a chorus dominated by a singing saw, is breathtaking in its simple beauty. The wistfulness of the vocals, sung entirely in Japanese, easily give an emotional weight that is noticeably lacking from the other songs. The reticence Shugo had in the past about delving headlong into the childish playfulness of his compositions gave his albums a multilayered aesthetic that gave the albums an interesting dynamic.
Port Entropy finds Tokumaru-san at his most confident, but without the apprehensiveness apparent in the past albums, the tracks seem two-dimensional. Shugo’s musical talent is undeniable, but perhaps future releases will see him mature in his compositional abilities. Until then, his fans will be stuck with the brilliant-yet-flawed Port Entropy.10 April, 2011 - 20:38 — Preston Bernstein