Review Summary: Not as resonant as Tokumaru's others, but still quite enjoyable
Shugo Tokumaru's debut, Night Piece, will always have significance for me even if I grow to dislike its desolate, melancholic sound, for some odd reason. This is because, before I found myself immersed within that album, I always had trouble getting really involved with records by singer/songwriters who didn't primarily sing in English. Call it ignorant if you want, but not having a proper understanding of what was being said made certain albums inaccessible to me. Night Piece was different, if only because it taught me to stop focusing on the fact that I didn't formally know what was being said, and instead attempt to focus on feeling out the emotions behind the language, to try and decipher the meaning of Tokumaru's obviously personal lyrics. The intimacy of the record also helped: the forthrightness of the vocals and the hazy, invitational feel of the production hooked me quite easily.
Point is, Night Piece effectively readied me for a smorgasbord of different artists, and heavily expanded my tastes. And whatever. It also readied me for a record like Port Entropy. Without this understanding of Tokumaru's previous work, Port Entropy's exoticism would be far too off-putting and foreign; instead, its dense sound makes perfect sense when you understand that this is a culmination of a natural progression that has lasted Tokumaru's entire career. Tokumaru wisely strengthens the softening edges of Exit, which was so sweet that it rotted, without going backwards. Songs like the tender piano ballad "Linne" and the hazy, drifting "Laminate" - which combines a soft, droning acoustic ballad with a structure reminiscent of the swells and ambitions of post-rock - show an obvious growth.
Other songs, like "River Low" and "Suisha", are more familiar and harken back to the folk-oriented sound of L.S.T. But Tokumaru has improved immeasurably since that record, and while these songs - as well as others like "Rum Hee" and "Malerina", which stands as Tokumaru's catchiest song yet - may have a familiar base, they are simply more enjoyable than his previous stuff. In particular, Tokumaru's noticeably sharpened skills for infectious melodies lift Port Entropy's material far past the benchmark Exit set: the easygoing and floaty songs are grounded by their driving, forthright choruses.
Port Entropy is a remarkable album, one that fully shows its creator in full control of all of his abilities. However, as masterful and as catchy as much of Port Entropy is, the emotional connection I felt with Night Piece just isn't here. It's certainly a stronger, more balanced effort than anything Tokumaru's ever done before, but I've just found it difficult to really get emotionally invested in it, like I did with Night Piece (for this reason, that record will probably always remain supreme for me in Tokumaru's oeuvre). Port Entropy's just too flashy; melodies spike into your brain pleasurably like a dropper on every song, but it all just seems unreal, if Night Piece was the stark truth. There's a sense of detachment when I listen to this record that's weirdly hard to explain, and it's certainly hard to shake. As it is, anyways, Port Entropy's still vastly enjoyable on a surface-level; this certainly counts for something.