A story about mundane breakups – Shoeb Ahmad on Surfacing
May 11th 2023
“The best way to look at it is like chapters of a book, you know, it’s chapters to a story” reflects award-winning musician and composer Shoeb Ahmad, aka Sia Ahmad, on the five-part song cycle of her new project.
A story, she reveals, is about breaking up and the resulting prosaic anti-climax of day-to-day life at the end of a relationship. Sadness is part of it, sure, but life, with all its work, its cooking, and its cleaning, goes on. Between the numbness and silence, there lies a quiet resolve. Sia joined Luke M de Zilva and Mara Schwerdtfeger on Surfacing last week to discuss how her latest EP double checks against the corner captures this forebodingly bathetic narrative.
The recording process for this new project felt for Sia like a culmination of her past efforts. 2018’s “quiver” was an experiment in live work, pushed by Sia’s song craft and her love of group music. Conversely, 2020’s A Body Full of Tears and 2021’s Facade were both very much lockdown records, constructed on a laptop at Sia’s dining room table.
double checks against the corner builds on what has come before, with curious pairings of field recordings, guitar noise, loops, melodica, processes, programs, samples, percussion, bass and vocals. It makes for some uniquely original arrangements, which Sia ran “through the [electronic] grinder, quite literally in places.” Drums skip on and off beat, below layered string parts repitched from previous records. Electronic and acoustic come together (“but not in the avant-garde sense… in a real literal way”). The work is a quiet contemplation on the duality of flux and repetition.
“That’s been the most fun thing I’ve been able to do with this record, lean into that sound clash that’s going on in my head. Really just going for it. Things are moving and ebbing and flowing.”
Despite the intricacy of the arrangements, melancholic lyrical observations are placed front and centre on Sia’s EP. From within a cavern of gently repeating rhythms and undulating bass the warm vocals lament the struggles of performing normality as your world comes crashing around you.
“I don’t see myself as a lyricist or, you know, not even a poet. It’s just words as articulation of a feeling. And that feeling was not the easiest to grapple with.”
Listen back to the full interview above to hear more of Sia’s thoughts on her process, performing live, and raising children. Her new EP under the moniker Shoeb Ahmad is out now, listen/buy it on Bandcamp below.