Saman Shahi proves with songs such as “Another Coffee” that he’s far from being another staid post-modern classical composer. There’s no man out of time vibe surrounding him. Shahi, instead, stands on the cutting edge of what classical music influences can encompass in these early decades of the 21st century. Plotting your debut release Breathing in the Shadows as a musical work covering three song cycles is an uncompromising way to open your recording career. Saman Shahi’s compositional skills, however, never hint of any hesitation. “Another Coffee” has several compelling characteristics that help it stand apart from any larger thematic conceits. Few other modern writers incorporate so much and aim so high, so every passage rewards attentive listeners.
On the face of it, “Another Coffee” is a spartan, bare bones sort of tune. It’s piano and vocals, nothing else. It testifies, however, to Saman Shahi’s compositional skills and, particularly, the talents of his collaborators that their combined efforts raise what seems so simple and stripped down into the impressive musical force we hear on this recording. Much of the responsibility for that, however, falls at the feet of pianist Tara Scott.
Scott does an exceptional job of breathing life into Shahi’s writing. The piano playing layered throughout the song never attempts to fill every conceivable space but, instead, parries with Fabian Arciniegas’ vocals essentially acting as a wordless second voice. The melodic strength of the playing further reinforces this impression. It is, in essence, an ongoing dialogue from nearly the start and ebbs and flows throughout the entirety of the song.
Jelena Ciric’s lyrics, like the arrangement, never goes in for overkill. There’s ample specific imagery built into the writing that any listener will be able to hang their hat on and equally clear that they are far from tossed off, but instead considered with great care to serve the arrangement. Shahi and Ciric are on the same page rather than creating inadvertent tension by working at cross-purposes.
The production keeps the piano up front in the mix without overwhelming listeners. It does not overshadow Arciniegas’ singing either. He has characteristics and technical abilities reminiscent of top-shelf opera singers without ever succumbing to the histrionics we often knee-jerk associate with such performers. There are moments in his phrasing and overall performance that smack of great art pop, but the foundation stays classical throughout. He has a warm and inviting voice despite the moody atmosphere of the song.
“Another Coffee” has many uses. You can enjoy the song by itself, as part of the Orbit song cycle, or as a smaller yet important piece of the overall album. Newcomers to this style of music won’t experience a great deal of difficulty finding a way into the song, Shahi’s compositional skills ensure that. It’s an excellent introduction to Shahi’s Breathing in the Shadows and you’ll likely finish listening to the song convinced that even more impressive accomplishments are soon in store for this composer. It has everything and more to make you believe.