“After I got the basic techniques of singing and writing, I started to search within, and that search will continue, I think, for the rest of my life,” says Sevdaliza, a former member of the Netherlands women’s national basketball team who, only around five years ago, started making music. But the Rotterdam-based Iran native insists that her sports training transcends the court: “Basketball taught me that I was able to go beyond my first breath, my second breath, my third breath, to the point where you just become the vehicle.”

Although she released two electro-pop EPs in 2015, Sevdaliza considers her debut album to be her “first real body of work.” ISON, out now via Twisted Elegance, is, to her, an emotional “diary.” To the listener, it’s a collection of songs with a twitchy, robotic quality that makes her breathy voice all the more immediate. When writing, Sevdaliza tries to let emotion, rather than ego, guide her. The result is more evocative than autobiographical. “I think the subconscious is the most important,” she says. “Whenever I go into a space with a preconceived idea, it never really works out. It’s about finding balance between seizing control and letting go.”

Sevdaliza comes from a long line of poets and musicians, but she credits her unique approach—open, instinctual, untethered—with her lifelong thirst for independence: she fled Iran as a child with her parents, who are political refugees, and chose to leave home at age 16. That sense of freedom has made her who she is today, and in an age of walls and travel bans, it’s a message she wants to spread. “I have a utopian feeling about where the world should go,” she says. “I’m doing everything within my power to send a message of love and creation out into the world.”