Based in Stockholm, Shida Shahabi is a pianist and composer born to Iranian parents who fled the Iraq war in the 1980s to settle in Sweden. Written over the course of a year while moving from one apartment to another, Shida Shahabi’s intimate début solo piano record Homes was released on 19 October 2018. Subsequently released on 8 November 2019 last, the Shifts EP sees the composer expanding her sound palette with cello accompaniment. Both recordings were released on FatCat Records’ 130701 imprint.
Growing up listening to an eclectic mix of music ranging from Western classical music to 1970s Persian pop, MTV, indie bands, post-rock and experimental music, Shida Shahabi started learning the piano and composing at an early age. Alongside her (mainly self-taught) piano musings, she studied fine arts at Stockholm’s Royal institute of Art. As a result, the artist soon began toying with sound art and audio installations, working extensively with technology, computer software and MIDI while also collaborating extensively with other performers on mixed arts projects.
As the title of her solo piano début record suggests, all compositions were written and recorded in her living room(s) with minimal fuss. There was therefore a conscious decision to strip-down the process as much as possible to avoid the pitfalls of contemporary music production – sky is the limit when it comes to the available technology and tools. The self-imposed constraints on the part of the musician led to a more natural and organic approach – “more like music making as an old school craftsmanship”.
All pieces were recorded on a vintage upright J.G. Malmsjö piano dating back to the early 1900s with all its noisy imperfections. On some tracks, the instrument was prepared with additional fabric tape or felt to “achieve a soft percussive sound”. Sparse layers of tape delay and synthesiser lines were also used throughout the album. Recording at home is also of course a way of sidestepping the pressure inherent to the professional studio environment. As a result, Homes exudes a cosy and unhurried atmosphere, enhanced by subtle drone layers on the stunning “Abisme” for instance.
The five new compositions on Shifts maintain a similar sound and immersive approach featuring this time the cello of Swedish musician Linnea Olsson on the first three tracks. Like an additional voice, the cello acts as a drone veering the compositions towards ambient abstraction, especially on the expansive “Sea Ear” or on “All in Circles”.
A compelling new female voice on the modern classical scene, Shida Shahabi has formulated with great integrity over the course of two short recordings a sensitive piano-based soundscape with human expression at its heart.