New York producer Shams (a.k.a. Jonathan Coward) deals in nostalgia wholesale. Much like the majority of releases issued by 100% Silk, Coward's debut EP, Piano Cloud (streaming in full here), comes across as immediately warm, recalling the spirit of a readily accessible disco record that was left lying undiscovered. With that in mind, it's kind of remarkable that only one track on Piano Cloud—the delectably chilled "Wasted"—uses vocals. Built upon a hanging, bittersweet piano chord, the production sums up the entire EP's m.o. in a tight four minutes. It's an unapologetic pop tune, one that's so light and sweetly constructed that it almost comes across as polite, consistently rewarding both in the moment and outside of it.
Piano Cloud is an easily digestible listen, which is both its biggest strength and drawback, but is at its best when Shams uses the titular instrument to push his tunes forward. Lead single "She Wanted to Watch," another of the EP's standouts, makes the most of the jazzy chords that kick off the tune before bolstering the riff with a funky bassline and some airy synth melodies. "Stare Into" begins similarly enough, but then peels off into house territory, piling on skittering synth stabs before smoothing them out. The opening title cut makes things a little more interesting, abandoning late-night jazz chords for rolling keyboards and filling the tune with drum fills every couple of bars before it works up into a four-on-the-floor stomp.
Strangely enough, Piano Cloud is at its least memorable when trying to be a more straightforward house record, even if those tracks do offer some interesting choices of arrangement. The flute-driven "Cloth" only has that instrument to distinguish it from other—and most likely better—100% Silk releases, and "Only If There is Nothing," while a competent house tune, doesn't really try anything fresh. That said, the strengths of Shams' EP outweigh its weaknesses, as the record holds some understated brilliance. With some tighter editing and a few more risks, Shams could possibly churn out some exceptional music. In the meantime though, Piano Cloud stands as a solid debut.