After two otherworldly EPs and a handful of surreal videos, Sevdaliza lets loose with Ison, a captivating dive into darkness, humanity, and downtempo beats.
A couple of years have passed since Sevdaliza released The Suspended Kid, an EP that fused mermaid myths with low-key electropop and hollow space. Children of Silk came next, a haunting, more lyric-oriented handful of tracks. The music videos that followed have further reinforced Sevdaliza’s daring aesthetic with uncanny valley-style CGI and otherworldly imagery.
Now, with her first full-length album, Sevdaliza brings it all together and then some. Ison is a robust 16 tracks long. To listen to it from start to finish is to take a decently sized day trip into another dimension, a deep exploration of Sevdaliza’s creative mind -- and it couldn’t be more beautiful.
Opening track "Shahmaran" is a retooled version of early Sevdaliza track "Underneath" with a tidal quality to it, a quiet, seductive opening that gradually grows stronger. Velvety keys lay a strong, simple foundation on which Sevdaliza’s voice rises from a croon to a howl, propelled by steely electronics. It’s named appropriately for a mythical queen of serpents from Kurdish mythology and serves as the perfect pull into Sevdaliza’s zero-gravity world. By the time the track ends, a swell of strings has enveloped the music, creating an inescapable undertow.
The rest of the album is a headfirst dive into the downtempo as Sevdaliza dabbles in trip-hop ("The Language of Limbo"), smokey jazz ("Replaceable"), and styles too unique to name before ending with the more straightforward "Angel", a seven-minute track made up of heartstring-tugging piano and a single plaintive thought repeated over and over again: "It shouldn’t hurt this much to be your angel." As she sings it, the emotional range Sevdaliza demonstrates over the course of Ison comes full circle; she sings the line with agony, with rage, with resignation, with unshed tears and clenched fist. It’s her most comprehensive performance on the album in terms of sheer expression and her simplest.
Simplicity is certainly key to Sevdaliza’s songs. She plays with moments of emptiness, letting the subtleties of each instrument and element ring out with the kind of clarity that keeps her music from getting muddied. At times, her lyrics can be hard to make out through so many echoes, but her tone is always clear, and any interference only makes for a more immersive and blissfully distorted experience.
Of Ison’s many moving parts, a few are clear standouts. "Hubris", the album’s most recent pre-release single, shares a structure with "Shahmaran": quiet opening beats let Sevdaliza’s voice find its way skyward, creeping between glitchy electronics. Longtime fans will already know ballad "Marilyn Monroe", a track full of grieving sung from emotional rock bottom. The cinematic strings of "Do You Feel Real" suggest a surreal thriller; its lyrics, questioning reality and the human experience, add Sevdaliza’s customary touch of the bizarre.
On top of the audio, Sevdaliza has uploaded a slow-moving visual accompaniment to YouTube, a video created and directed by digital artist Hirad Sab to go with the full album. The video opens with a wider look at the Ison album cover -- a hyper-realistic mask of Sevdaliza’s face made by sculptor Sarah Sitkin -- and gradually, things change. The scarlet walls bleed, the mask melts, images twist and turn. Finally, in the end, we are back to Sevdaliza’s upside-down face, serene and vulnerable, wet hair flowing downward: a bold, central force. On Ison, she is the origin of life, creating, shaping, and giving all of herself.