7 May 2017

Sevdaliza - ISON (album review)

The astronomical success of Artists like FKA Twigs, Frank Ocean and Lorde playing around and fusing abstract, dark and gloomy sonic ideas and crafting them into sleek sounding accessible songs has led to a new generation of would be household names. Sevdaliza is one of the most interesting and forward thinking artists to borrow ideas from these artists in recent years.

Iranian born singer-songwriter Sevdaliza has an MA in communication as well a few appearances for the Dutch international basketball team, and she has a pretty good debut album to add to that. ISON isn’t a perfect record, but standing at over an hour long, it’s certainly ambitious for a first full length release. But definitely to its credit this album has plenty of refreshing expansions on styles of the records its influenced by.

Take for instance the track Hubris. On its surface, this cut sounds like it could have come from a run of the mill Banks record, but it’s an interesting genre fusion. The kick drum beat sounds like some mid 90s trip-hop and the piano progression sounds eerily similar to Radiohead’s Pyramid song or Kendrick Lamar’s How Much A Dollar Cost. After the haunting chorus, Sevdaliza’s vocals are morphed with a beat grid and the pitch shift towards the end of the backing instrumentations creates an intense final chorus to the song.

The opening track Shahmaran is as striking as the album’s cover art. The atmospheric strings and pirouette gracefully around Sevduliza’s spectral falsetto. Although the bare flesh of most of the tracks here do sound generic, it is the production tricks and glitch breaks that really make this a challenge for the listener. Take for instance the putting of a high pitched sample of the words ‘never make you love’ 37 times in the chorus. It will grate on the ears of the impatient everyman.

Human is one Sevduliza’s biggest singles, understandably. Its subtle trap beat sounds dreamy when intertwined with the delicate vocals. The spoken word parts of this record are reminiscent of BeyoncĂ©’s Lemonade, the big difference here is the music here is so much more ambitious and interesting.

ISON clearly takes influence from the many incarnations of Bjork. The drum loops on most songs here sound like they’ve come straight from the Homogenic era, where the violins feel like they’ve come from Vulnicura or perhaps Vespertine, but they do feel slightly different to the strings on these records. They’re certainly more cinematic especially on the unsettling Do You Feel Real? It has the feel of a Bernard Hermnan Composition. You could defiantly imagine a young Norman Bates practicing his taxidermy skills to this track.

The album didn’t need to be over an hour, and this is ultimately its downfall as there aren’t too many bad moments here, just a lot of repetition of the same ideas, and a fuck of a lot of filler.

I can see a key Criticism of this record being “its style over substance”, and I can partially agree. A big chunk of this record does rely on its aesthetic over its actually musical ideas. The hooks and lyrics here don’t live up to the brilliance of the instrumentals. However this album is so well produced, wonderful, cohesive, and so smooth it’s hard to blame it.


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(Words: Aimee Armstrong)