Up-and-coming composer/singer/songwriter Dom La Nena is scheduled to release her latest album Friday through Six Degrees Records. Her third solo album, the 13-song Tempo is a unique addition to this year’s field of new World Music offerings. That is due in part to its musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. While the musical content that is featured in the album gives listeners reason to take in the record, its lyrical content proves somewhat problematic. This will be addressed a little later. The album’s production works with its musical arrangements to give more appeal to its presentation. When those two elements are paired, they do just enough to make the album worth hearing at least once.
Dom La Nena’s new album Tempo is an intriguing addition to this year’s field of new World Music offerings. That intrigue comes in part through the record’s featured musical arrangements. The arrangements in question are not what one might think of when one thinks of the genre in the purest sense. Rather, they are in fact more of a purely artistic presentation. La Nena, who was born in Brazil, but lives in Paris, does not necessarily try to use elements of either nation’s musical culture for her compositions here. Rather, she paints a musical picture with her experimental works, that few if any other World Music offerings can compare to beginning with the album’s title track/opener. ‘Tempo’ comes across as a sort of modern classical work. It features La Nena on cello and piano, each part clearly recorded by itself and then mixed together. Interestingly enough, the short instrumental work conjures thoughts of a composition crafted for some British mystery TV show or movie. On another note, ‘Quien Podra Saberlo’ (which translates roughly to ‘Who Could Know’) layers La Nena’s vocals while incorporating a light string arrangement and some light hand claps to give the song a sound and style that harkens back to the gypsy style works of Eastern Europe. There is almost a sense of mystery exuded through the song’s arrangement. That mindset is sure to keep listeners engaged in this case. ‘Samba Para Voce’ is another example of how La Nena’s musical compositions defy the term “World Music.” This gentle, flowing, string-driven arrangement throws back to certain jazz style compositions from the 1960s. It really is a unique composition that one must hear to fully understand. Between this song and the others featured throughout Tempo, the arrangements in whole give audiences much to appreciate.
While the musical arrangements featured in Tempo build a strong foundation for the record, the record’s lyrical content detracts somewhat from its presentation. The lyrics are problematic because they are sung in three separate languages – French, Spanish, and Portugese. This is problematic for audiences on both sides of Atlantic. That is the case because no translations are provided for any of the songs anywhere in the packaging. That means any American audiences who don’t speak any of those languages will have to guess at the meanings behind the songs’ titles after they translate those items. It also means audiences in either of her home nations who perhaps only speak French or Portugese will only know the lyrics to those songs. What’s more, those who speak Spanish will only understand those noted songs. Simply put, the lack of any written lyrics or even translations thereof hinders the delivery of the songs’ messages. That is discouraging, but not enough to make the album a failure. It just means that it will limit the album’s appeal to a point. Making up for that shortfall is the record’s production.
The arrangements featured throughout Tempo are relatively simple in their instrumentations. Even being relatively simple, the songs still require just as much attention as any more complex composition. Case in point is the simple, short ‘Valsa.’ The ‘Waltz’ tune is just an instrumental which features La Nena playing pizzicato on her cello against a piano line, her layered vocals and andante style bowing. The layering of these elements and the dynamics of it all required its own share of time and attention to ensure everything was balanced. Those painstaking efforts paid off, too. The end result is a song that while short, has so much impact in its own right. ‘Teu Coracao’ is another example of the importance and impact of the record’s production. It is another gentle, simple composition, composed of La Nena’s vocal delivery and some very simple string backing along with some other ethereal elements. Even with so little instrumentation, there is still a lot going on here that creates the song’s general effect. The attention paid to the dynamics and balancing each element makes the song so rich even in its simplicity. The same applies for ‘Vejo Passar’ and the rest of the album’s works. Each song is relatively simple in its approach, meaning it would have been so easy for those behind the glass to get lax in working through each song. Luckily that did not happen. The result is an album that is just as worth hearing because of its professional production as for its musical content. Even with the concern over the lack of any lyrical translations still there, the songs and their production is just enough to make the album worth hearing at least once.
Dom La Neda’s new album Tempo is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. From fans of an artist, such as Ala.ni, to World Music fans, to La Nena’s own fans, the record will find plenty of appeal. That is due in large part to its musical arrangements. While the record’s arrangements do much to make the record appealing, its lack of lyrical translations detracts from the album’s presentation to a point. That is especially considering that the songs are sung in three different languages. The production of the noted arrangements works with the songs to make for a little more appeal. When the two elements are joined, they do just enough to make the record worth hearing at least once, even despite the concern raised by the lyrical problems. Tempo is scheduled for release Friday through Six Degrees Records.
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