Soap&Skin but as a Parisian romantic instead of baring all her soul.
It wasn’t until I had listened to ‘Tempo’ several times that I’d then read that Dom La Nena had moved from Brazil to Paris. The best way to describe her music is a chirpy blend of Brazilian folk realised through Parisian instrumentation. It is a unique sound but one that makes you smile.
‘Tempo’ is brief, with 13 tracks in 35 minutes but each piece manages to put a unique spin on chamber music. It might be the dreamy waltzes of ‘Doux de Rever’ where bouncy strings and Theremins twinkle. It may be the Camille-esque vocal montage of sounds that make up the delightfully fluffy ‘Quien Podra Saberlo’. Even the short plucked string and harp interlude of ‘Esperando Alma’ has tons of heart – literally. The percussive background sounds like a heartbeat in the womb.
When I think of how delicate the string arrangements that make the backbone of the album are, it reminds me a little of the Icelandic band Amiina. The cello is front and centre as its Dom’s instrument of choice and she wields it superbly. What brings the depth and gravity to the cute music is Dom La Nena’s voice. She has a way of singing that leans into notes and leans out of them again that is very Latin. It means she slightly crosses over the perfect pitch for many notes and floats around it instead and that’s why I pull in the Soap&Skin reference as she does something similar. It adds weight to the vocals and for me, elevates the music into something vulnerable and heartfelt.
As so much of the album revolves around plucked strings and layered vocals to unravel a mood, sometimes individual songs don’t stick out when you listen to the album as a whole. ‘Samba Para Voce’ does so by exuding romanticism and dark fairy tale vibes. At the same time, it uses a quiet samba beat as a nod to Dom La Nena’s Latin roots. ‘Oiseau Sauvage’ and ‘No Tengas Miedo’ are the other standouts for sounding like creepy circus acts. The twinkling pianos, soft coo’s and waltzing strings act as a kaleidoscope of eerie intrigue pulling you in.
Some may argue that if an album doesn’t have big standout singles, it might not be a strong album but I disagree. ‘Tempo’ is all about creating a certain mood and Dom La Nena nails it. If you are looking for a quiet madness in the dark depths of Paris, you’ve got it here. If you are after a soundtrack for an unwritten Del Torro fantasy, Nena has you covered too. Just give it a few listens and wait for it to seep into your mind and it’ll be a comforting and quirky place to chill.
Recommended track: No Tengas Miedo
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