Artist: SHANON SHAH(InterGlobal Music)
Reviewer: DARYL GOH
MAYBE itís easy to forget, through the fog of unspeakably dreadful Malay pop music and the hit-obsessed industry surrounding us, that there are a few notable names striving to make local music with a more challenging, individualistic reach. At any rate, itís a safe bet that newcomer singer-songwriter Shanon Shah wonít be arriving on the scene with any sense of inflated hype, and this 27-year-oldís debut Dilanda Cinta, simmering in the studios for a year, is the sort of fetching modern Malay record providing much to celebrate.
This 10-track offering, with nine Shanon originals, is startlingly beautiful as it is bruised in emotional weight. The natural poignancy of his piano-led material is arguably the main reason why this album stands apart. Perhaps many will see Dilanda Cinta as a sophisticated Malay record, but in truth, Shanonís nakedly open poetics come from the heart and soul, and the way the music and the lyrics, born of bittersweet frustration, discontent and troubled desires, build together is something strikingly remarkable.
There is hardly need for melodramatics across this intimate album. Siti Nurhaliza should start taking notes. Few local artistes would have the luxury of defining an album with such an affecting opener Dilanda Cinta, a song of seduction blurring any gender crisis with its vintage Malay pop sway. Shanon clearly understands the strength of song, and this Kedah-raised blokeís outpourings, stirring with relationships with significant others, busted romances and loads of subtle humour, do translate into a satisfying whole.
He can be heartbreakingly desolate as heard on Kunci, cradle a crumbling family frame on Tidur Tak Lena or sketch an epic, atmospheric ballad like Angkasawan like his life depended on it. There is no faulting Shanonís level of emotional involvement throughout and when he cuts loose with the cynical spin on Jurutera, you know thereís a singer-songwriter never holding back on his defiant dreams.
Regardless of the influencing styles (young Elton John or Rufus Wainwright, anybody?), Shanonís music always seems original, reflecting his love for experimentation. But of the lesser moments, the electronics-going-nowhere Masih Aku Terasa (from Gersang) and the jittery Api can sometimes lapse into facelessness, but at best Shanonís underlying passion seeps through. Some advice: maybe a KLPHQ remix awaits with these better-deserving tracks but donít expect experimental arrangements the scale of Radioheadís Kid A or anything close to Four Tet or Manitoba with the factory-line local composers used for those cuts.
Maybe Dilanda Cinta wasnít meant to be a flawless first, but itís worth mentioning at this point that several times on this album, there were actually enough heartfelt turns and convincing moments to put Shanon Shah out there as the homegrown find of the year. No, really. Heís that good.