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-Greg’s Take-

For those who have never visited Japan, one’s perception may be rather generalized and, perhaps, stereotypical. We only know what we see on film and are limited by distance. As with most unfamiliar cultures, there is a lot unknown and left to the imagination. But through music, we can experience the culture in a progressive, honest way that is only rivaled by spending quality time within said culture.

I have never been to Japan. I know only what I’ve read about and seen on film and a little from close friends who have visited. The traditional qualities of the culture and their heritage are absolutely fascinating, but the cultural progression has remained rather foggy to me.

Through Tokyo’s Shugo Tokumaru, I have the chance of experiencing something fantastically original and worldly. His sound is audibly elastic; it has the ability expand, contract, bend, shift and stretch but remains solidly In Focus.

Shugo Tokumaru is the equivalent of John Lennon, in the experimental days, influencing a boldly artistic child from a very young age. He has established himself as a vibrant do-it-yourself musician by arranging, playing and producing every aspect of his music. His ability to craft such a thoroughly entertaining and memorable style separates his art from the mainstream, and though it may sound cliché, truly makes him unique. I’m not kidding, He is daringly creative.

In Focus? is fifteen tracks of loose-yourself music and if you can’t speak his language, no problem. Tokumaru’s language is his mixed within his layered music and the soul-warming sound he conveys within each song. In Focus? is a dynamically safe place where whimsy dances with traditional styles and holds firm to an ever expansive new-age personality. For instance, “Tightrope” is an acoustic ballad that is beautifully laid out, but is preceded by the circus style of “Pah-Paka.” Spanish guitar style peaks its head in “Helictite (LeSeMoDe)” and the Americana influences stand out in “Down Down.” “Katachi,” though no direct translation to English, speaks to symmetry and tradition, beauty and functionality. The song embodies the title and stands out as my favorite of them all. Though the record walks a curved line of varying cultural influence, it somehow maintains the markings of Tokumaru.

Even though our cultures may be separated by ocean and our respective traditions, Shugo Tokumaru has opened himself to the world and reeled me in to his art.  In Focus? is warming and irreplaceable. It is a record that you can find yourself coming back to for an escape time and time again. It is fresh and packed with treasures. Expand your musical mind and grab this one.

Shugo Tokumaru