Written By: Andrew Sedo
Using haunting classical compositions and stirring hip-hop production, Sevdaliza consistently represents a vision of fluctuating uncertainty and steadfast commitment. Born in Iran and raised in the Netherlands, she is an accomplished athlete (she played for the Dutch National Basketball team), holds a master’s degree, and is a published model. On the surface level, her full length debut, ISON, appears to be a sonic identity crisis. As the album wears on, this analysis proves to be only skin deep.
On “Amandine Insensible” her hardened alter ego begs for the ability to feel saying, “I wish i could cry / I wish I could die / I wish I could cry for help / (but my heart is too cold).” Here we are treated to less of a crisis that an unabashed inability to refute the role past experiences have in her perceived destiny. On the aptly titled “Hubris” she closes with “Oh / You and me / We fail / To see / (And oh) deep in my eyes / We fail / To fly / The autopsy report read / The insides were beautiful” lamenting on the death of love that was once a source of inspiration. She is equal parts reminiscent as she is unapologetically steeled in her prideful choice to end things. The rest of the album reads as the aforementioned autopsy, as she examines her relationships and the lessons that allowed her to finally find her way.
On “Bluecid,” Sevdaliza ethereally echoes “I could only have you in my dreams / Oh, so it seems, so it seems” again referencing the losses that come as the imperfections of reality contrast with her perfect vision. The goose bump inducing “Love’s Way”, which features a stirring guest sermon on the nature of modern love, references her desire as a sort of misguided arrow “My aim / Takes place / In the aimless heart.” She realizes her misconceptions and resolve can root themselves in those not ready to follow her unique path.
The stirring “Human” reveals her acceptance of self is both a strength and a limitation. Borderline trap drums reinforce the chorus “I am flesh, bones / I am skin, soul / I am human / Nothing more than human.” We can never be certain if she continues to want more or finds solace in her inability to be something other than what she is.
The closing pair of tracks show us what happens when you find yourself coming nearer and nearer to goals you once thought impossible. “The brighter the light becomes / I hope it will unveil / It was all worth my pain…” she closes on the penultimate, “When I Reside”, where she battles with her own truth and her contradictory willingness to question everything. The heartbreaking “Angel” ends the album with Sevdaliza wondering why something so pure has to hurt so badly. “It shouldn’t hurt this much to be your angel”, she proclaims, as if she knows her odyssey is saving someone’s soul.
In this way, ISON is a modern Icarian tale, and while it is equally cautionary, she does not focus on the downfalls of ambition. It’s as if Sevdaliza realizes the improbability of her ascent, and bursts through the sun to find nothing on the other side except more emptiness. However, she keeps searching nonetheless. It’s a constant struggle, not borne from some personal identity issue, but instead by her desire to show us the true nature of the possibilities of selfless love. Yet, sometimes desire is both the carrot and the stick, which keeps us pushing higher or brings us crashing, fantastically, back to Earth.