Over the last few years, I’ve really come to appreciate the different ways that you can record a piano. Shida Shahabi decided for her new EP ‘Shifts’ to place the microphones into the very guts of the piano. This creates an unusual mechanical and percussive sound that feels both intimate and alien at the same time. It’s like a piercing smudge.
Across the five tracks on ‘Shifts’ Shida doesn’t often go for straightforward arrangements. On the opening track ‘Futo’, the melody coils like a snake. Slowly but purposefully – aided by a slow singular string that breaks and bends out of curiosity. The piano is so close to your ear that you can hear everything. The hammers pitter-patter. The wood creaks. The pedal has a velvet caress to it. It really makes the music come alive. ‘Janvie’ and ‘Keiki’ follow a similar thread and offer up my favourite trio of tracks from the EP. When the piano is hitting the higher octaves, Shahabi has the piano prepared in a way that bleeds the notes out of focus. They start to sound like bells that are detuned just a tiny bit. It’s lovely to listen to.
The other two tracks are string focused. ‘All in Circles’ and ‘Sea Ear’ are both meticulous and slow-paced – as the entire selection is. I connected less with these although there is no denying that classical lovers who are after a dirge-like mood will absolutely lap these tracks up.
Slow, methodical and working in the shadows, Shadi Shahabi has made an oddity with ‘Shifts’. Nils Frahm fans will enjoy this one especially. The cello and piano can make wonderful noises outside of their comfort zones.
Recommended track: Futo
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