Sevdaliza’s "Raving Dahlia" at times falters, at times astonishes

by Annika Eske

Sevdaliza’s "Raving Dahlia" at times falters, at times astonishes

Sevdaliza has a distinct style that is all her own — she has a tendency to combine the rawness of an acoustic track with the crisp and powerful sounds of experimental electronic music. With the release of her latest EP, Raving Dahlia, on February 25th, Sevdaliza falls just short of expectations. The EP certainly contains moments of beauty and soft-spoken power, but several of the songs feel as though they are missing some final ingredient. The EP sees Sevdaliza test the water in a variety of different genres, from house music on “Everything is Everything” to hints of a cinematic sound on “Oh My God (Sleepnet X Sevdaliza Remix).” In theory, this diversity of genres is exciting, but Sevdaliza’s exploration may have paid off more if she had taken a more unrestrained approach to these styles.

The EP begins in more familiar territory with the opening track “System.” As listeners have come to anticipate, the production on Sevdaliza’s vocals brings out even the most subtle nuances in her voice. There is an intense clarity to each syllable and every slight quaver. Yet, in slight contrast to the vocals, the instrumental production on “System” is surprisingly pensive and relaxed, sharpened only by an entrancing, snap-like beat. Still, the most notable element in this track is perhaps the lyrics. “I’m too sensitive to be your pedestal,” she sings, and later: “You’re dead to me, we’re done.” The lyrics seem to demand some obvious outcry of emotion, but the song remains fairly distanced throughout, with only the slightest edge in Sevdaliza’s voice. Without any evident climax, the song dissolves into synths and guitar-like sounds at its conclusion. Although some listeners may find the minimalism of the song disappointing, others may see it as a gentle introduction. It is somewhat paradoxical that the very first track of the EP is also the one that sounds the most worn out.

The similarly minimal “High Alone” is more tantalizing thanks to a gorgeous bassline paired with breathy, legato vocals. This track, released initially as a single, carries a strong aura of angst and seduction. The beat feels persistent and the keyboard parts have been carefully woven in. Sevdaliza has also crafted a truly artistic transition occurring just before the last minute of the song. As the vocals and beat cut out, a monologue starts up in the background and harp-like sounds begin to bend into dissonance. The beat slowly builds back up until another recitation of the chorus begins. As the song dives back into its full set of percussion, with some added keyboard parts, the song simply comes full circle. Every part has its purpose, and carries it out beautifully. “High Alone” doesn’t need to announce itself in order for listeners to recognize when the song has reached full bloom.

Another highlight of the EP is “The Great Hope Design.” With its slow, dark, and glitchy sound, this track comes across as classic Sevdaliza. “My existing is a chore,” she practically groans. Her voice lowers and the pitch quivers in a way that demands attention while the percussion plods on, slow and crisp. This song makes delightful use of silence, as well as jarring electronic sounds. The instrumental break at one point in the song is really more of a break into industrial, glitchy, and experimental sounds. The bass part has even been produced in such a way that it seems to be trembling with energy. As she sings, “No man can guide me / I am my own god,” it is not at all difficult to believe her.

Unfortunately, when Sevdaliza wanders into genres outside of her dark and raw electronic niche, it isn’t quite as enthralling. “Everything is Everything” has a laid-back feel. Instrumentally speaking, it’s a very pleasant house-style song, but it feels somewhat artificial to suddenly hear Sevdaliza’s vocals in such a pop style. The song doesn’t quite square up to the raw emotion one might expect from Sevdaliza, or from this EP. Contrarily, “Human Flow” attempts to take on a more emotive tone. As it directly follows the highly electronic “The Great Hope Design,” “Human Flow” is something of a shock to the system. With an Enya-like sound, this track is based almost solely upon acoustic guitar and layers of vocals. While the individual components of the song are moving, they don’t quite come together to make the track memorable in its entirety. The EP then falters again at its conclusion with the remixed track, “Oh My God (Sleepnet X Sevdaliza Remix).” The humming sounds and almost orchestral beginning make for a promising start, but these orchestral segments come at sharp intervals in between the original portions of the song. Later in the song, the remix aspect becomes more blended and traditional, as lightning strike-esque sounds enter as a sort of percussion. Then, the song switches to a typical chopped up remix style, and concludes with a disappointingly emotionless “drop” that sounds too close to 2000s electronic music to be enjoyable.

Overall, Sevdaliza’s Raving Dahlia EP is still well worth a listen. A few of the tracks fall short and seem to be lacking a creative finishing touch – however, songs like “System,” “Great Hope Design,” and “High Alone” are astonishing. With their attention-grabbing dynamics, crisp sounds, and potent vocals, these tracks are a reminder of Sevdaliza’s artistry.