At the root of Sevdaliza's industrial R&B and breathy trip-hop is a challenge: What am I to you? The Iranian-born, Netherlands-based singer and songwriter released two EPs in 2015, exploring this question not only for herself but as a function of how culture prescribes identity. On her forthcoming debut album, ISON, she revisits a few of those tracks; one, in particular, is a statement of defiant purpose.
With languid beats and ambient synths, "Amandine Insensible" takes its cues from '90s trip-hop. But Sevdaliza gives the downtempo production surreal movement with sweeping piano and her soft yet striking voice. In its shifting hues, it sounds like minimalist composer La Monte Young slow-jamming with Björk in low lighting.
"There's a woman / She's every fantasy / And no reality / In one," she sings. In a video directed by Piet Langeveld, Sevdaliza conceptualizes that exasperated sigh by portraying herself as several different stock footage models actually available to purchase on Shutterstock. As her body turns in various outfits and stiff poses, there are watermarks imprinted on Sevdaliza's skin — literal marks of how women are viewed. By using portraiture to reflect back on culture, Sevdaliza channels the subversive work of photographer Cindy Sherman, rendering culture's fascination with female fantasy sterile. Sevdaliza tells NPR that the video for "Amandine Insensible" also explores the symbolism of commercial brands:
The story of Amandine explores the concept of "identity" in a contemporary world that is rapidly changing due to the disappearance of "boundaries." Amandine is everything you want her to be. An extreme extraction of average life, representing a world where we have become so universal all feelings have disappeared. Paradoxically, this makes you feel uncomfortable. Her life takes place in an infinite white space, composed with minimal objects that represent different facets of the cycle of daily life.
The accessibility of information and matter has created a new universal language, in which commercial brands play a key role. The video explores this "new" symbolism through its use of colors, light and representation. It is asking questions about the universal identity, the losses and its transformation, its meaning and its future.
The incorporation of commercial branding in the video will leave its question remarks. Is it a music video, art or a commercial project?
ISON comes out sometime in 2017.