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Album Review

Shugo Tokumaru is not (as many reviewers have assessed) the Japanese Sufjan Stevens. He may share some of Stevens' fascination with found instruments and eccentric acoustic arrangements, but that's where the similarities end. Tokumaru, in general, seems to go much deeper into his own musical world — playing with sounds more and taking ideas much further. If comparisons must be made, it would better describe Tokumaru's trajectory to align him with the likes of a less predictable pop experimenters like Lindsey Buckingham. Like Buckingham, Tokumaru's songs can sound deceptively simple on the surface, but closer listening reveals a very sophisticated musician at work. Anyone can layer instruments on top of one another (and, with the advent of digital home recording, often to a ludicrous level), but it takes a real talent to sort out how they should fit together. This is where Tokumaru shines, especially on his album Exit — a home-recorded affair that flirts with indulgence but rarely succumbs to it. That's an important point because a song like Exit's opener, "Parachute" — with its multi-layered fingerpicked guitar propulsion and more melody lines than you can shake a stick at — could have been just a predictable lo-fi mélange had someone else been at the helm. In Tokumaru's hands, indulgence is tempered with taste and taste is augmented by confident individuality and competent musicianship. That individuality and musical prowess are evident enough — as Tokumaru is clearly at ease on a number of different instruments — but all of that would amount to beans if you couldn't put it together just as expertly. In the arrangement department, Tokumaru displays both skill and mischievousness. He has a Brian Wilson-like penchant for playing instruments off of each other to achieve a greater result (just listen to the Pet Sounds playfulness of "La La Radio") and is fearless in his use of dissonance (check the gradually twisted interplay between the recorders and melodicas on "Clocca"). Ambitious as some of that may seem, Exit never feels like a show-off record — just a thoughtfully put-together one. ~ J. Scott McClintock, Rovi


Born: May, 1980 in Tokyo, Japan

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Shugo Tokumaru began recording his sweet and eccentric lo-fi indie pop songs -- songs that nod to artists like Plamo, Lullatone, and PWRFL Power -- in the early 2000s. He recorded a ten-track demo CD-R, Fragment, in 2003. The album was never officially released, but it did manage to grab the attention of the U.S. label Music Related, which released Tokumaru's second full-length, Night Piece, in 2004. Tokumaru went on to release a couple more albums over the course of the next few years; L.S.T. followed...
Full bio
Exit, Shugo Tokumaru
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