MUSIC REVIEW: Bone Key/Pointing at the Moon/Mina’s Hymn, Gazel, Self-Released, Out Now
Madonna, Kate Bush, Lady Gaga, Bjork, Lauryn Hill, Janelle Monae, Rihanna, Beyonce and Katy Perry.
A common thread runs through all of these singers, a formidable self-belief in their music, regardless of what the critics write or think.
Gazel (full name Gazel Algan) is similarly strong-minded enough to make music entirely on her terms.
Born in London to Turkish parents, Gazel is a graduate from the city’s Royal Academy of Music, but her music output is so far away from the classical variety.
Gazel said: "It's not about standing out because that can shock you in the future.
"If you're aiming to be different, it's not going to come from an authentic place.
"I make the music that I want to make and if that translates to the audience then that's good.
"I went to the Royal Academy of Music when I was 13, learning viola, piano and playing classical music.
"It gave me a lot in terms of understanding what classical music is, but it left me wanting to go into other music.
"Whilst classical music gave me really good foundations in going about writing music, I wanted to explore other avenues of music through the opportunities to write classical pieces.
"I wanted to write things on my own and my father bought me a complete professional recording studio software package called Logic Pro."
Gazel's virtual rebellion against the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and company is best demonstrated on Pointing at the Moon and Mina’s Hymn, the first two singles from her planned debut album, Gazel’s Book of Souls, described as "continued narrative of a teenage girl crossing the desert".
Although Gazel's Book of Souls will showcase "the cast of characters that dwell in her unconscious mind", what is beyond dispute is the author's streak of defiance against convention, against tradition, against moderation.
"My background is Turkish as both of my parents are from Turkey," Gazel said.
"That was the music I was brought up on but I was born in the UK and so I listened to the music my friends were listening to, underground and other music from London.
"I've drawn comparisons with Kate Bush but I don't think about the categories I've been put in.
"The music I make means it's difficult for me because people want to categorise it when I like to make music that's less familiar to people."
The singles follow on from her self-released debut EP, Bone Key, on which gothic, electronic, dance and world music all congregate.
Come Alive has flashes of John Barry and Hans Zimmer with its brass flavour, I’m a Stone, a Stick gives space to Gazel’s stark singing voice, Underwater is a technological adventure and You’ll Be Mine is a club DJ’s version of a love song.
Gazel is what her promoters say she is, “a uniquely genre-bending artist and storyteller” who "fuses electronic sounds with philosophical influences for a spine-tingling result".
She said: "I'm making making that people can draw different flavours from so that if they are into innovative music, with a highly characterful side as well, then there's a story that accompanies that.
"But if people are busy defining my music then perhaps they're not listening to it."
Helping Gazel bring her musical concepts to life are a team that includes Grammy Award-winning producer Haydn Bendall (Kate Bush, Vangelis, Leona Lewis, Van Morrison), sound engineer Shuta Shinoda (Ghost Poet) and artwork specialists Acid Lake.
"The melodies I write are images I form in my own head and when people say things about my music, it gives me a reason to keep on imagining things," Gazel said.
"For example, I wasn't even aware that my music sounded ethnic of Middle Eastern until other people told me.
"I wouldn't want to do things for people, otherwise it might change the music I'm creating.
"But I do have moments when I think 'How far can I push people?' if it's not easy listening for them."
She said: "There have been live music opportunities that have come in unexpected ways, including a chance to support Goran Bregovic at the Hammersmith Apollo last year.
"With the Pickle Factory show, I tried to take it to a more theatrical place, with the idea of Gazel's Book of Souls at the centre of it.
"I made a few early decisions in my late teens or early 20s that made me commit to what I wanted to do musically.
"There's enough people in the world who do things just to be popular.
"But when my parents realised that I wasn't going to follow the route they wanted, they accepted that I have something to work towards and they trust me to do it.
"The music I'm making now is as close to all of me that you can possibly get and it's the closest thing to my heart that I have as well."
Review and interview by Winston Brown