The smoky depths of mythical trip-hop.
Sevdaliza’s second album ‘Shabrang’ is a fascinating dive through mythology, parable, compromise and tipping points of darkness. Few albums in 2020 are so densely layered in thoughts and feelings that span centuries of lore whilst feeling utterly of today. To categorise the music itself though is much more of a challenge. Is alt-trip a genre yet?
Like ‘ISON’, Sevdaliza’s debut, the beauty of the music is found in how sparse and pressing the sounds are. Everything here is purposefully placed and expertly crafted without ever sounding cluttered. Instead, the music wants you to lament on just a few key sounds each track and really tune into that tracks vibe. For example, the title track has a twisting gothic synth that really pulls you through its mystical feel. ‘Lamp Lady’ on the other hand plays with an unusual drum machine and a lute-like guitar riff and barely uses any other sound throughout. Even when songs are more layered such as the bluesy electro-rock ballad of ‘All Rivers At Once’ plays with piano, drums, synths and guitars and rarely do they all play together. It is a clever exercise in restraint that plays like audio witchcraft.
Whilst the entire album is silky smooth like dark chocolate at midnight, two things are the linchpins that keep all the music feeling connected. The first is a string selection that pulls in from Farsi musical ideas as well as classical ones. Different tracks allow the strings to play different roles. ‘Joanna’ allows the strings to feel cinematic and dense. The counterpoint ‘Habibi’ lets the strings offer air and grace to a cyberpunk synth and piano ballad with vocoder vocals.
The second key to consistency is Sevdaliza’s voice. Imminently catchy ‘Wallflower’ showcases various elements of her voice – from reading prose to haunting choruses – everything is silky smooth. Everything also has a wise yet foreboding passion to it too. The waltzing Farsi ballad ‘Gole Bi Goldoon’ may sound out of place in a beat and synth orientated album but it allows that vocal passion to soar and to feel sore too. Placed next to the cyberpunk dance of ‘Darkest Hour’ – the two tracks couldn’t sound more different. Yet with the strings and vocal connection alongside the dense darkness of the album’s mood, it strangely works. You jump from enjoying hedonistic trip-hop in ‘Oh My God’ one minute then relishing in the lavish alt-pop ‘Eden’ the next only to be engrossed in a symphonic string arrangement in ‘No Way’ before diving into razor rock synths with ‘Rhode’. The shapeshifting scale of the album simply wows me.
Sevdaliza has created an absolute revelation with ‘Shabrang’. Between the layered lyrics, perfect production sense and entrancing songwriting, this is an album that captivates you from start to finish. That is before I even mention how intoxicating Sevdaliza’s voice is. This is one of my most exciting new discoveries of 2020 and quite indefinable. Categorise under ‘dark and delicious’.
Recommended track: Eden
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