Dom La Nena has drawn comparisons as varied as “a young Brian Wilson” (Wall Street Journal), “a burnished, bossa Joanna Newsom” (Time Out New York) and “the shadow of Lhasa” (Voir), yet her music and style remain distinctly her own. Her debut album, Ela – which NPR hailed as a “sonic masterpiece” – introduced Dom’s delicate vocals and sparse arrangements. With SOYO, she builds upon that vocabulary, bringing her unmistakable voice and cello playing into new sonic territory. The album, out March 3 via Six Degrees Records, is already receiving praise. NPR proclaims it “a very big step in her maturation as an artist,” while the Wall Street Journal calls the music “affecting [and] quietly catchy.”
Of her previous release, The New York Times wrote, “[Dom La Nena] joins the sorority of whisperers that includes singers like Juana Molina, Hope Sandoval and Jane Birkin.” Comparing her to these musical forebears makes sense, considering the intimate nature of her work. Co-produced by Dom and Brazilian songwriter Marcelo Camelo [formerly of the Brazilian band Los Hermanos] the album features long, wandering melodies that are ornamented by cellos, pianos and other chamber folk elements coming and going throughout.
The recording process began much the same as it normally does with Dom, with time spent working on the arrangements in isolation. “I like to start new ideas on my own,” Dom says, “and when I’ve done some recording and sketched out how things fit together, it’s even more exciting to have someone join in.” Indeed, when Camelo joined the recording process, he immediately contributed a percussive and rhythmic dynamic reflective of his singer/songwriter background; infusing the shine of Rio de Janiero and bringing lighter and more upbeat elements to Dom’s melancholic undertones, while dipping equally into indie rock and Latin dance forms.
Recorded in Lisbon, Paris and Mexico City, mixed in Sao Paolo, and mastered in Miami, the album is international to its core – a story that Dom reflects in her tales of vast distances, longing, and nostalgia. “All the musicians and artists who have influenced me and my songwriting over the years, they make their way subconsciously into my music – but one of the biggest influences for this album was being on the road: continually experiencing the feeling of biding your time, waiting to depart, waiting for soundcheck, waiting for the show, etc., as time continues to pass while you are far from home and family. So in addition to musical influences, the underlying anticipation and the mundane things that happen in life while on tour tend to find their way into my songs.”
Born in the coastal city of Porto Alegre, Dom, whose given name is Dominique Pinto, spent her childhood between her hometown and Paris, studying cello and piano while her father pursued his doctorate. As an adolescent, Dom began to write letters to acclaimed American cellist Christine Walevska, and at age thirteen, moved to Argentina with her parents’ consent to study with Walevska for several years. It is in Argentina where her older peers dubbed her “La Nena” or “The Little One,” a nickname that has followed her since.
Before her first work as a solo artist, though, Dom already had a substantial resumé as an accompanist. Her first exposure to big stages was at the age of 18 on a two-year worldwide tour with Jane Birkin, which led to a string of collaborations. She has since toured with French stars Jeanne Moreau and Etienne Daho, and collaborated with Camille, who also appeared briefly on Ela. A chance encounter with Piers Faccini at a dinner party coincided with the beginning of her first experiments as a songwriter, and when the time came to turn the new batch of songs into a debut record, Faccini was brought on as a co-producer and arranger. The result, Ela, set in motion what is sure to be a long and fruitful solo career