Posts Tagged ‘shugo tokumaru’

Shugo Tokumaru: “Exit” [by Misho I.]

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

 

What do novelist Haruki Murakami and singer Shugo Tokumaru have in common? Ok, yes, obviously they are both Japanese, but there is more to it than that. Murakami and Tokumaru share a markedly easy ability to be translated into English. Unlike other Japanese exports in recent years, say…the whole Harajuku Lovers phenomenon, Murakami and Tokumaru make sense when placed in a western—more specifically, American—context.

 

In the 1980s Murakami caused an uproar amongst Japanese literary critics for abandoning traditional structures of grammar in favor of a more English style. Accused of abandoning the great history and legacy of canonical Japanese literature (like the works of Yukio Mishima), Murakami’s novels were considered as controversial for their form as they were for their content. As this was going on in Japan, Murakami’s work was very quickly being discovered and translated into English. By the early 90s Murakami was well established as the “modern voice of Japan” in the U.S.

 

Fast-forward twenty years. 2008, and Shugo Tokumaru has released his X album, Exit. Like Murakami, Tokumaru has become emblematic of a “modern Japan” by American critics. In October, Tokumaru made a brief tour of the U.S. to promote his recent album. He was featured in the CMJ Music Festival accompanied by members of Beirut and alongside Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos. Tokumaru also opened for the Magnetic Fields for two of their tour dates. Exit was hailed by Brooklyn Vegan as “ingenious and genius” and the songs “Parachute” and “Green Rain” were featured on RCDRLBL,com. Tokumaru translates well, but why?

 

Aside from his style of writing, Murakami is a very accessible Japanese author from an American perspective. This is, in part, due to the fact that Murakami’s books are really explorations of self. His novels focus heavily on mapping a kind of universal interiority. In Murakami’s work reality is subjective, founded in an individual’s consciousness. This concept transcends barriers of culture, geography, and even language. Murakami explores the very nature, the very essence, of what it means to be human.

 

Similarly, Exit is a close personal work. Like Murakami, Tokumaru explores an interior landscape, that of dreams. All of the songs on Exit are based off of Tokumaru’s personal dream log. Though he sings mostly in Japanese, the close dreamlike world of Tokumaru’s songs are certaintly not lost in translation. The playful and skipping instrumentals—characterized primarily by a joyful tinkley xylophone—paired with Tokumaru’s gentle and sweet vocals synthesize themselves into a soft harmony. The sweet simplicity of Exit works to create an overall album that is intimate. The emotion and meaning of Exit’s ten tracks are easy to read. It is exactly this intimacy, this closeness, that enables an American audience to understand and appreciate Shugo Tokumaru.

 

Shugo Tokumaru: "Exit" [by Misho I.]

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

What do novelist Haruki Murakami and singer Shugo Tokumaru have in common? Ok, yes, obviously they are both Japanese, but there is more to it than that. Murakami and Tokumaru share a markedly easy ability to be translated into English. Unlike other Japanese exports in recent years, say…the whole Harajuku Lovers phenomenon, Murakami and Tokumaru make sense when placed in a western—more specifically, American—context.

In the 1980s Murakami caused an uproar amongst Japanese literary critics for abandoning traditional structures of grammar in favor of a more English style. Accused of abandoning the great history and legacy of canonical Japanese literature (like the works of Yukio Mishima), Murakami’s novels were considered as controversial for their form as they were for their content. As this was going on in Japan, Murakami’s work was very quickly being discovered and translated into English. By the early 90s Murakami was well established as the “modern voice of Japan” in the U.S.

Fast-forward twenty years. 2008, and Shugo Tokumaru has released his X album, Exit. Like Murakami, Tokumaru has become emblematic of a “modern Japan” by American critics. In October, Tokumaru made a brief tour of the U.S. to promote his recent album. He was featured in the CMJ Music Festival accompanied by members of Beirut and alongside Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos. Tokumaru also opened for the Magnetic Fields for two of their tour dates. Exit was hailed by Brooklyn Vegan as “ingenious and genius” and the songs “Parachute” and “Green Rain” were featured on RCDRLBL,com. Tokumaru translates well, but why?

Aside from his style of writing, Murakami is a very accessible Japanese author from an American perspective. This is, in part, due to the fact that Murakami’s books are really explorations of self. His novels focus heavily on mapping a kind of universal interiority. In Murakami’s work reality is subjective, founded in an individual’s consciousness. This concept transcends barriers of culture, geography, and even language. Murakami explores the very nature, the very essence, of what it means to be human.

Similarly, Exit is a close personal work. Like Murakami, Tokumaru explores an interior landscape, that of dreams. All of the songs on Exit are based off of Tokumaru’s personal dream log. Though he sings mostly in Japanese, the close dreamlike world of Tokumaru’s songs are certaintly not lost in translation. The playful and skipping instrumentals—characterized primarily by a joyful tinkley xylophone—paired with Tokumaru’s gentle and sweet vocals synthesize themselves into a soft harmony. The sweet simplicity of Exit works to create an overall album that is intimate. The emotion and meaning of Exit’s ten tracks are easy to read. It is exactly this intimacy, this closeness, that enables an American audience to understand and appreciate Shugo Tokumaru.

‘A Very VKR Thanksgiving Feast!’

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Thanksgiving, a time to sample all the culinary delights that our varied family traditions have to offer.  This year at my house we had many guests, family and friends alike.  I now invite you, dear anonymous blog reader, to join me as I lead you through the cornucopia of great new albums that I’ve heard this fall at the Plymouth Rock of a radio station that is WVKR.
Oral/Aural comparisons abound, so feast you eyes, ears, and hearts upon the banquet I lay before you:::

apps

Appetizers: Jay Reatard – “Matador Singles ’08”, Various Artists – “Hallum Foe OST”
Some delightful, bite sized, finger foods. Enjoyable in any portion. Just press play at any point on these albums and you’ll be instantly drawn in to a series of short, tasty, ear d’ourves.  But don’t ruin your appetite.

Jay Reatard- “See Saw”

Sample Hallum Foe OST

squash

Spinach Squash Casserole: Benoît Pioulard – “Temper”

A complex and rewarding treat, and the perfect complement to any early winter’s day.  Like the subtle intermingling of greens and sweet squash in this unique casserole, Benoit intertwines the ambient and the mildly poppy in a challenging yet supremely enjoyable work.

Benoît Pioulard – “Bess”

marn

Cranberry Sauce: Marnie Stern – “This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That”

A tart endeavor, with a hint of sweetness to those who take the time to savor it.  This album’s vibrancy stands out distinctly from the rest of the platter.  Marnie serves up a bowl of in-your-face, guitar-shreddin’, shout-singin’ explosiveness. Though I can only enjoy it in small portions, there are many out there who devour it by the bushel.

Marnie Stern – “Transformer”

stuffin

Stuffing: Viking Moses – “The Parts That Showed”

Delicately seasoned bread, steeped in the blood and juices of the turkey throughout its hours of roasting; the stuffing is almost a parable for innocence lost – much like the dark yet redemptive tale told throughout Viking Moses’s  sweet and melancholy musical fable.  Brendan’s vocals resonate with a subdued power over a simple, reverby pudding.

Viking Moses – “Jones Boys”

potate

Mashed Potatoes: Fight Bite – “Emerald Eyes”

Dreamy and ethereal, like the heavenly fluff of this classic well-whipped dish. Sure, it’s not exactly groundbreaking (They’ve got a very similar aesthetic to Beach House), but that doesn’t make “Emerald Eyes” any less delicious. Pace yourself though! This album flies by and you might end up finishing it before all the other dishes if you’re not careful.

Fight Bite – “Swissex Lover”

sweet

Sweet Potato Mash: School Of Seven Bells – “Alipinisms”

A masterful blend of fluffy, heavy, and saccharine.  The more complex of the starch mashes.  Angelic female vocals drift through some yammy, earthy beats.  All of this is smoothed out and spread even with dense shoe-gaze textures galore.

School Of Seven Bells – “Half Asleep”

gravy

Gravy: Of Montreal – “Skeletal Lamping”
This album has some of the sexiest, most savory songs my musical palate has ever encountered. It’s a whole gravy boat fulla lovin’. There are some bizarre lumps and specks in there, but just let the inconsistencies flow right by and you’ll find yourself all up in the rich, succulent, disco-funk mix of Kevin Barnes’ imagination.

Of Montreal – “Nonpareil Of Favor”

potroast

Pot Roast: Koushik – “Out My Window”
Get down into the mix of sumptuous potatoes, carrots, and beatz.  Koushik serves up a varied platter of funky fresh grooves, simmered for hours in some old-school analogue sauce.  If you dig The Go! Team’s famous stews, serve yourself a heaping helping.

Koushik – “Lying In The Sun”

olives

Olives: Guitar – “Honeysky”

Why are these on the table? Who put these olives on the table?  Is this really someone’s idea of a relevant T-give garnish?! A similar question could be asked of Guitar– did the Ace of Base aesthetic really need to be drudged out and force-fed Nyquil until it sounded like this trippy album? Well, that’s up to you.  I think it’s enjoyable, but I’m not sure if I ever have been or ever will be in the right mood to really love it. Oh, and it was my mom. my mom put the olives on the table.

Guitar – “Honeysky”

turkey

Turkey: Larkin Grimm – “Parplar”
This album ain’t no game hen, it’s a full blown meal.  I envision Larkin herself having reared and slaughtered this 28lb fowl in the highlands of Appalachia – drawing it closer with her husky, irresistible lure; buttering it up with her earthen melodies; then BRUTALLY SLAUGHTERING IT. She says it herself: “Who said to you, ‘you’re going to be alright?’ Well they were wrong wrong wrong wrong…”

Larkin Grimm – “Ride That Cyclone”

tofurky

Tofurky: Various Artists – “Perfect As Cats: A Tribute To The Cure”

Even if every bite isn’t delicious, the sheer volume and ambition of this imitation undertaking (24 different artists on this 2 disc compilation) ensures some delights scattered throughout.  If only the same could be said of the lackluster loaf I’m comparing it to, which is mediocre through and through – even those cats are upset by it.

Bat For Lashes – “A Forest”

cleanplate

Cleaned your plate, ay?  Time for some DESSERT!


cheesecake

Cheesecake: Shugo Tokumaru – “Exit”
A confection to be reckoned with.  Sure it’s a pop-laden desert, but there’s more weight here than you might expect. After a giant dinner I could only take a couple bites of this creamy delight. “Exit”  has a reliable crust of bizarre guitars/ukuleles, but warrants sampling at a time when you can dedicate some attention to the more delicate spiced flavors of recorder and boyish vocals meandering throughout.  Also helping the metaphor is the striking resemblance of this slicing pattern to the Japanese imperial flag.

Shugo Tokumaru – “La La Radio”

cake

Crazy Chocolate Cake: François Virot – “Yes Or No”

This is the sweetest of the sweet.  A chocolately delicious treat.  Virot’s child-like enthusiasm and energy almost matches that of my 5-year-old cousin when he inexplicably decorated this cake with Technicolor toothpicks and more confectioners sugar than this disc has vocal self-harmonies. Virot makes me giddy as a child with layered acoustic guitars and body-based rhythm tracks.  Though the title leaves it vague, the answer is clear: YES!

François Virot – “Say Fiesta”

What?? No Pumpkin pie?!

Too obvious, my friends, too obvious.  How about a more relevant finish:

photo-8

Paul has a new music show called “The New Contemplative Jive Hours” on Tuesdays from 10pm-Midnight.

thnx to AGD & EBB