Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy
Port Entropy is the kind of magical album you don’t need to understand a word of. Boppy, fun, playful, and smart, by turns fast and slow. One of my first pick writing albums these days. You may not have ever heard of Shugo Tokumaru, but this album is great.
Tokumaru creates, records, mixes, and plays all the instruments on his recordings. He only records lyrics in Japanese and even though I can’t understand a word it still sounds great and evokes emotion. I wouldn’t call this world music, more like pure pop. Port Entropy was his most popular album in Japan, at the time making it to the Japanese top 40.
When he writes music he comes up with the melody and then uses the maximum amount of instruments he can to show the different aspects of his dreams. Apparently all of his lyrics, or at least the key ideas all come from his dream diary. His music reflects this approach as a lot of it is dreamy and magical.I like to listen to an album that is sonically challenging and curious. Port Entropy is full of delightful little surprises and musical references. An absolute delight of an album that goes beyond the gimickry you might expect of such an approach.
One of the best things about Port Entropy is the arrangements. He has cited the Beach Boys and a japanese artise Hachidai Nakamura as influences. I don’t know Nakamura, but the long standing love affair musicians have with the Beach Boys is because of their brilliant harmonies and song arrangements.
Lots of lyrics, but they’re all in Japanese, as a result I dont really find they distract me at all. The lyrics are all inspired by dreams, so they may send you on an interesting tangent, but only if you speak Japanese.
Well the mood goes from upbeat and happy to introspective and sad, but generally it’s pretty upbeat.
Good to work to
This album is one of the records I put on high rotation when I’m writing. It never fails, it doesn’t distract ,but has some great highs and lows that I seem to need when I write. If the lyrics weren’t in Japanese I don’t know whether I’d like it as much, but it makes sense to me and I kind of like hering all of the different words.
This album reminds me of an Australian artist, Jay Walker who records under the name Machine Translations. I’m not sure if Machine Translations is as good to write to but there are certainly some similarities in terms of density and quality. The specific album I’d compare it to is called Happy and is also densely arranged smart pop. Writing this will make me go back and have another listen.
It’s not consistently high tempo as there are some slower songs but definitely has elements, and the only reason I’d say it is world music as that is what non-english language music is labelled, but that is no easy fit. When I have some more pop here on this site I’ll link it to that.
Shugo Tokumaru is from tokyo. He is in a Japanes band called Gellers made up of his old school friends. Involvement in the band was at the heart of his interest in multi instrumentation. After school he lived for a while in Los Angeles for a few years, joining a jazz band and starting his song-writing in earnest. His debut album came out in 2003 and he has been recording and performing ever since.
He has a website, shugotokumaru.com and I would keep an eye out for when he is coming your way, as it is not an everyday occurence.
Endearingly when he was learning to play guitar apparently he would only play songs by the Clash.
I have list to a few of his other albums such as 2007s exit, which was similarly inventive but which I didn’t connect with quite as much. I haven’t listened to any of his later albums. If any of them are of the level of this one they’re worth pursuing.
Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
Although it’s a little old now you can still track this album down on vinyl CD and of course the generic MP3.
I would definitely reccomend this as an album to write to. Maybe it is just because Port Entropy is in Japanese that lets me work through it. I certainly wouldn’t listen to many pop albums like this and expect to be able to continue to work. Even if you don’t want to write this is an absolutely delightful album.