By Roberto Espinoza
A few days ago, Latvian composer Aija Alsina released her debut album, Domum, a set of 12 piano pieces that features work created over the last four years. The first release by the London based composer arrives a year after being chosen as one of the ten finalists in the prestigious Marvin Hamlisch Film Scoring Contest in 2016, where she was invited back as a judge this year and, as the title suggests (Latin for homeward) expresses her return to her childhood instrument, the piano.
Domum is filled with overall romantic, delicate compositions and a melancholic hue throughout its forty-six-minute span. Nevertheless, each piece sets a distinctive mood and suggests unalike sensations, demonstrating the multiple forms in which the theme of childhood might be revealed. Angst, nostalgia, and hope waver in Aija Alsina’s own search for a unique musical expression.
Morning Glow, the opening piece, is one the album’s most appealing and characteristic compositions, showcasing the beautiful string arrangements, the multi-layered piano, and the occasional sound-effect ambiance that make Domum mesmerizing. Pieces like Reflection and Variation on the Horse Theme demonstrate Alsina’s care for soundscapes, and pieces like French Waltz, which introduce French horn arrangements, illustrate her composing versatility. On the contrary, the intimate dwelling-nature of the piano can still be heard in pieces such as Krastini.
Although it revolves around the piano, Domum is nonetheless an evocative album filled with texture and imagery. An effort characterized both by its assembly of mixed emotions, and by its delicate play and the broad range of sounds. Aija Alsina's debut is utterly captivating.