Shugo Tokumaru


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There's a song called "Bricolagemusic" on Shugo Tokumaru's sixth album Toss, and it's a perfect statement of purpose: While Tokumaru made most of his other albums on his own (except for playing the drums), this time he throws the doors wide open, inviting members of his live band, an orchestra, Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, and art collective Maywa Denki to record source material that he later edited into these songs. Entering the process with a blank slate -- Tokumaru had no songs prepared, and wasn't even sure he was making an album -- seems to have unlocked a new level of creativity. Toss is some of his widest-ranging, most audacious music to date, and though the album took much longer than expected to complete, spontaneity and freshness define even relatively straightforward songs like the pretty ballads "Route" and "Hikageno." Things get considerably more bonkers on "Cheese Eye," which Tokumaru co-wrote with composer Chikara Uemizutaru as a tribute to Carl Stalling and other composers/arrangers for vintage American cartoons, and on the barely controlled chaos of "Taxi." Most of Toss lands somewhere between these extremes, and even with the album's radical approaches (including the use of a graphic score for "Hollow"'s asymmetrical pop), Tokumaru's style is unmistakable. Songs such as "Lift" and "Lita-Ruta" sound like especially energetic outtakes from In Focus?, while the shape-shifting standout "Vektor," a collaboration with Otamatone creators Maywa Denki, is surprising only in that these talents haven't joined forces before. As its title implies, Toss' unpredictable approach means that sometimes it sounds more scattered than some of Tokumaru's previous work. Nevertheless, leaving room for the unexpected also allows space for some welcome artistic growth.

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