2002. That was the year Shahin and Sepehr released their album "Nostalgia". The sixth album since 1997 when they hit the charts, and our hearts with my favorite album, titled stereotypically enough, "One Thousand and One Nights".
Since 2002 though, the duo has been eerily silent, whether from exhaustion of maintaining a dual identity (how to be a successful Iranian music artist AND keep your day jobs!) and taking the well deserved break after the many songs and albums they produced since all this madness began.
The madness? I knew S&S were on the American music map when in one week, I heard their music in my car, not on the CD player, but on the FM radio, through KKSF the local New Age music station. Then, when I got home from work, as I sat together with my wife on the couch, to traditionally watch her watch the figure skating championships, suddenly sat up stunned as I realized, Kristi Yamaguchi was skating to a S&S song!
I spoke with Sepehr on the recent release of "Fields of Change" (Click to Listen), which I think is phenomenal, no album has been announced yet, but with this single, you can hear the bubbling of the juices that have clearly started flowing again, and I would not be surprised that based on the success of this single, more great music is on the way.
Fields of Change, as Sepehr melodically put it, "...is inspired by the current political and general world climate, it feels as if all of us, we in the world, need to consider a change whether here with US politics, or the global environment, or all of our general outlook, definitely something is in the air."
Fields of Change is also a definite change in direction from the last couple of albums which according to Sepehr were largely dominantly produced by the labels they used to be with. This effort is their first independent effort and the result of what they think sounds good to them, rather than a result of corporate marketing listener surveys from American-advertising fed New Age stations.
Don't get me wrong, you will enjoy owning very single album you buy, the signature S&S sound is always tight, multi-layered, and an elegantly thoughtful, construct of harmonic sounds and encouraging and exotic beats woven together to bring about a convergence that is, in a word, pleasing.
On Fields of Change however, there is definitely a lot more of the good stuff. Shahin is the seemingly mute Guitar-Shah, both inspired and insane, and clearly now let fully off the leash from the barn he has been locked away in, apparently contently producing other musicians. Apparently though does not necessarily mean true. Now, he madly races around the song like a teenage Bull in a china shop. If that Bull thought he was really a Ballerina.
Meanwhile, Sepehr the Toreador, masterfully guides us and the entire song around the ring as we ooh and aah at his skillful set up. Starting small-ishly coy, he takes us by the hand (around Shahin) to the end of the song on an ever increasing crescendo of beats and rhythms, until at the end of the song we are left breathless and spent. To understand how he can hear each element silently and individually, and then put them together like this, is frankly disturbing. But go ahead disturb me. Please.
Fields of Change sounds even better than that. It carries the same excitement that was pervasive on 1001 Nights, but takes it "...to 11"). Eerily and possibly the timing is even right, it sounds like there is a bit of a Bond theme thing going on here, which just considering it, sends a chill up my spine.
But the world of music has definitely changed. There is no album scheduled. Not yet, and according to S&S maybe not at all. You see, a band no longer needs labels to become a success. Especially if like S&S, you already have a bit of a reputation and a decent catalog to merely follow on.
Many traditional and even some of the newbie Iranian bands, insist on producing long haughty and over-reaching albums of 1 or 2 good ones, followed by 8-10 crappy songs, and only consider themselves to be a success when they have a car-trunk-full of plastic Viet-Namese made jewel-boxed CDs to admire, under the yellow city lights of dark streets as they drive from venue to venue unsuccessfully asking for the thousands of dollars they now need (to cover all that CD burning), instead of the hundreds they might actually deserve.
To play the songs live, that they almost always recorded in their bedroom "studios" on a laptop, they are forced to use by-the-hour band members who don't sound anything like those on the 128kbps albums. When that doesn't work, some hack video maker from LA slimily oozes in and suggests they pay him, to make them a god forbid Music Video (complete with hot Latina/Iranian looking chicks, and the pre-requisite white Hummer limo) to be played on the satellite TV shows, primarily watched by Iranians in Iran, only to encourage our fellow homeland insecure cousins, to merely greedily rip the songs from those internet sites that they are still allowed on.
Not S&S. Or at least not anymore. No longer tied to the outdated corporate whims of large American labels, S&S leads Iranian music, following in the internet path forged most noticeably recently by Radiohead, and now many others who have found independent music distribution.
The song "Fields of Change" is currently in rotation on several leading US FM stations (so don't be surprised if you hear it), as well as available to hear on demand, on the S&S MySpace page (Click to Listen). And if you like it, you can honor their effort and own it guilt-free for a mere $0.99 at iTunes or Amazon. Gift it to someone special too, if you want. Hell, to encourage all of us to reward our own good music, I'll even gift it to you right now. The first 10 people who email me now, will get the song "Fields of Change".
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