Sevdaliza (real name: Sevda Alizadeh) is an Iranian-born, Dutch-based singer whose music is an ever-morphing combinations of European, Persian and electronic influences. It’s often described as “trip-hop” and while that holds true for the ricocheting beats and occasional quavering Portisheadian moods, it’s loaded with FKA Twig-ish elements as well as swooning string arrangements that recall Siouxsie & the Banshees circa “Dazzle” and especially “Homogenic”-era Bjork, who is also a profound influence on Sevdaliza’s elaborate videos and album artwork.
Indeed, her music often feels like (and often is) the soundtrack to a visual that amplifies the sense of displacement in the lyrics and the constantly shifting music. In one video, her disembodied face appears in various complicated chrome and diamond structures; in another she drops a long robe to reveal her female torso with a horse’s legs; recent concerts featured her accompanied by a contortionist. It evokes the ways her songs abruptly shift into incongruous sounds, pauses and sections that feel just barely connected to what came before; her versatile yet distinctive voice can flip from soothing to menacing in seconds.
Since 2012 she’s released a handful of EPs and several stray tracks on her SoundCloud page, but all of the elements truly coalesced with last year’s “Ison” album, which got rave reviews from the indie press and debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes electronic chart (impressive for a self-released album).
“The Calling,” a new seven-song EP, continues the album’s vibe while taking things even further out — a particularly beautiful moment occurs in the middle of “Energ1,” when a driving beat underpins an aching string quartet, then the beat starts to fracture as her voice, treated to sound ghost-like, floats in; in “Human Nature,” she’s one of the too-rare artists who uses autotune as an instrument in itself, warping the title and the phrase “touched by an angel” into weirder and weirder shapes. But then the EP ends with “Observer,” one of the most commercial-leaning songs she’s ever done, which combines a pulsating beat and beguiling melody into a song that almost recalls latter-day Sade’s more upbeat moments — its relative normal-ness is as disorienting as the odder tracks that precede it.
It all gets very high-concept at times — apparently there’s a solar concept tied to the project; she’s been dropping songs on the arrival of different phases of the moon — but while it commands the listener’s attention, it’s rarely jarring or unpleasant. A constantly shifting soundscape of strings, beats and voices, “The Calling” finds Sevdaliza morphing initially familiar sounds into ever-odder new shapes.