ISON

Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - MUSIC REVIEWS - Sev­dal­iza { twisted ele­gance } —atoosa moin­zadeh

“When I started mak­ing mu­sic, I found a spir­i­tual home,” Sev­dal­iza told The FADER in April. “In­side my songs, in­side my stu­dio, and even­tu­ally in­side my

Just as ISON sus­tains an air of mys­tery, so does the in­be­tween­ness and non­be­long­ing we face when we un­pack our iden­ti­ties as chil­dren of the di­as­pora.

house.” And in­deed, her de­but al­bum, ISON, is like a holo­gram that of­fers a glimpse into her pri­vate world. Paired with a mov­ing al­bum cover, the 16 tracks progress as we watch her like­ness dis­tort and twist. The cover’s sculp­ture, cre­ated by Sarah Sitkin, is meant to rep­re­sent Sev­dal­iza as “a mother to her­self and her past lives.” (“It car­ries her vul­ner­a­bil­ity sto­ically,” Sitkin wrote.) In the mov­ing vis­ual, we see “[h]er fea­tures dis­torted, some omit­ted, some em­pha­sized.” And as Sev­dal­iza cracks open, so do her in­sights on vul­ner­a­bil­ity and wom­an­hood.

Born Sevda Al­izadeh, the 28-yearold mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary songstress is an Ira­nian-born refugee based in the Nether­lands. She ran away from the Nether­lands at 15, and crossed over to mu­sic nearly a decade later. Her style oc­cu­pies a unique space be­tween avant-pop and elec­tronic, and on ISON, she seam­lessly shifts shapes to show us her dif­fer­ent sides. In the stand­out track, “Hu­man,” we’re in­tro­duced to the idea of the outer shell and what lies be­neath (“And in front of my judg­men­tal eyes/ My pre­cious dis­guise”)—and by the time we reach “Hubris,” she’s slowly peeled back those lay­ers (“The au­topsy re­port read/ The in­sides that’s what’s beau­ti­ful”). On the project’s end­ing track, “An­gel,” she gives us her most vul­ner­a­ble self— a painful rep­e­ti­tion car­ry­ing a med­i­ta­tive, heal­ing qual­ity—but Sev­dal­iza still main­tains dis­tance be­tween her­self and her holo­gram.

Al­izadeh didn’t grow up lis­ten­ing to much Per­sian mu­sic, but through­out ISON, threads of clas­si­cal in­flu­ences (like her us­age of core notes) merge with her ex­per­i­men­tal style to cre­ate some­thing com­pletely her own. Just as the project sus­tains an air of mys­tery, so does the in-be­tween­ness and non­be­long­ing we face when we un­pack our iden­ti­ties as chil­dren of the di­as­pora. Each track rep­re­sents a new form and a dif­fer­ent self, so as ISON pro­gressed, I felt pulled into deeper in­tro­spec­tion. “You know when you’re work­ing on some­thing for so long that it becomes big­ger than your­self? That’s what my al­bum means to me,” Al­izadeh told The FADER. We’ll never know her full story, but its frag­ments will cer­tainly stick with us.

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