Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy

written by: February 18, 2011
Release Date: February 14, 2011


From a Western perspective, it is easy to dismiss most Japanese music as novelty. While Shugo Tokumaru’s latest release, Port Entropy, could easily be described as quirky, his evident enthusiasm and meticulous interweaving of musical styles propel the album from being just another gimmicky Japanese record to one entirely worthy of praise.

Those familiar with Tokumaru’s breakout album, Exit, will find Port Entropy is not a radical change from his previous work, but rather one that works to refine the concepts he had experimented with earlier.

This album is slightly more streamlined than Exit, with fewer layers of sound and more straightforward songwriting. While this makes the album more accessible to mainstream listeners, unfortunately, it also means the music is a little less daring; we don’t get any tracks as unique and offbeat as Exit’s “Future Umbrella.”

For those unfamiliar with his previous work, Tokumaru could be described as a “clockwork pop” musician. He uses found sounds (mostly strange percussive clangs) like spoons and bells and weaves them together to create the riffs that form the backbone of each song. Then, he overlays that with acoustic guitar, some strings and the occasional horn and tops it all off with his poppy, spacey vocals.

Though he sings in Japanese, it’s immediately clear that Port Entropy is a collection of very happy songs. It is the sort of music one can find themselves grinning to .

In fact, Tokumaru’s exuberance is what holds this album together.  The joy that comes through in his music pulls the songs together and allows them to resonate with listeners, despite the language barrier.

Standout tracks include “Lahaha,” which begins with a sea shanty-esque bit played by a flute and bells combo that builds to Tokumaru actually laughing while singing the chorus, and “Drive-Thru,” which ricochets back and forth between a slow vocal-driven section and a segment that sounds like a funky train powered by baritone sax and steel drums.

Surprisingly, the one truly disappointing song on the album, entitled “Linne,” fails only because it lacks the exuberance that his other songs ooze. You can’t fault him for attempting to write a slow ballad, but the piano-driven track doesn’t fit with the enthusiasm that drives the rest of the album.

Luckily, one bad song doesn’t weigh the whole album down. Port Entropy’s 11 other tracks hold up very well. Each one could not only stand on its own, with unique samples and interesting progressions, but also as parts of the album as a whole.

While Tokumaru’s quirky take on pop music might not appeal to everyone, Port Entropy is far more accessible and consistent than his last album, and is definitely worth a listen for a collection of unabashedly feel-good songs.

Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy tracklist

  1. “Platform”
  2. “Tracking Elevator”
  3. “Linne”
  4. “Lahaha”
  5. “Rum Hee”
  6. “Laminate”
  7. “River Low”
  8. “Straw”
  9. “Drive-Thru”
  10. “Suisha”
  11. “Orange”
  12. “Malerina”