There are some artists whom you get introduced to from other connections that have little to do with them. In the case of singer Anna Domino, I first heard her performing guest vocals on the “Infected” album by The The. She duetted with Matt Johnson on “Sweet Bird Of Truth,” one of my favorite cuts on that album as well as a single release. I rather enjoyed her calm, measured singing that seemed to subsume any passion. Shortly thereafter I ran across her self-titled debut album which was on the always intriguing Disques Du Crepuscule label. I picked it up and immediately found it to be a half-step away from jazz and thus it was part of that whole ’86 NWOBJP movement that came along at the right time when I was at loose ends with how Post-Punk music had become so unseemly in the mid eighties.
Actually, her debut album had strong ties to Post-Punk as it was largely produced by Alan Rankine, the instrumental genius of The Associates, though at this point in time, my face reddens to admit that it would be another four years before I would have the pleasure of hearing that band! The album was filled with left-field pop of a charming sort, with two cover tunes added for good measure. The dry, cover of “Sixteen Tons” was especially appreciated. I have to admit that I’ve never been moved by any version of “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game.”
Original songs like “Rhythm” and “Take That” were excellent exercises in jazz-like poise that I really appreciated. I played the album heavily at that time and was moved enough to go back to the same store where I had bought this and picked up the debut album by Isabelle Antena because it was also on the same label and had similar Benoit Hennebert cover art; a gamble that paid off in spades, by the way, but that’s a post for another day.
The next year, saw her second solo album released, “This Time.” Ms. Domino had formed a musical [and lifelong] partnership with Belgian guitarist Michel Delory, late of Univers Zero and Viktor Lazlo, who would be her collaborator for all of her subsequent music. The production on this album is by Flood, who invests the proceedings with his usual technological clarity, albeit in a slightly more acoustic setting than he was known for at this time. The angular funk of “Time For Us” points strongly to the dance floor; a rarity in Domino’s milieu. This contrasts sharply with the subsequent singalong sound of “Change To Come,” which sports some excellent bottleneck slide by Delory sounding not unlike what Dave Stewart of Eurythmics was doing at this time, with the large difference that Ms. Domino seems incapable of singing with the sort of overbearing melisma that ruined Annie Lennox. Overall, the album was a smooth leap for Anna and had me eagerly awaiting more of her sophisticated, jazzy near-pop.
I didn’t have to wait long. The next year a six track EP of new material titled “Colouring In The Edge And Outline” appeared and it featured some of Ms. Domino’s best material. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stunning “88” as one of her finest songs ever. The tightly sequenced synths create a web of tension that is undercut by her ever calm delivery of the apocalyptic lyrics. Delory and Domino take the majority of musical roles on this EP, resulting in a greater reliance on syntheszers that anywhere else in her canon, but that would change with her next album.
1990’s “Mysteries of America” was produced by Anton Sanko, of Suzanne Vega’s band. The brief running time of nine tracks seems over as soon as it starts and overall, the album is a scant ten minutes longer than the EP that preceded it. The songs move closer to folk forms; that’s not shocking considering that Sanko is at the helm. The one cover here is a stunner; Jesse Winchester’s “Isn’t That So” gets a haunting run through in this program. At the very least, Ms. Domino knows the value of always keeping them wanting more. That’s my first rule of this business called show. Ironically, at this time no one knew that her next release would entail a nine year wait.
When Anna Domino [and Michel Delory] surfaced again it was nine years later and in another guise completely. They then released an album under the name of Snakefarm called “Songs From My Funeral” and the program was all covers. The instrumentation was guitar, dobro, banjo, drum machines, and synths. All of the songs were folk murder ballads given a trip-hop flavoring that heightened the emotional chiaroscuro that was already endemic to the material. A friend of mine had the good fortune to have seen Ms. Domino in concert on the West Coast at this time, having long been a fan. Sadly, I never had the pleasure. After that single, sustained burst of US touring, Anna Domino fell off of the musical map for another long span of time.
It was only this afternoon when researching this post that I discovered that she broke an eleven year musical silence to release a single last year! Ironically, considering her work with Anton Sanko, she released a cover of Suzanne Vega’s “Blood Makes Noise” as a download in two different mixes. She’s been married to Delory for a long time now. It’s not far fetched to think she’s raised children to adulthood in the time spans between her last three releases. So I’ll need to buy this single and also the 1984 EP of hers that’s been re-released on CD several years back called “East-West.” That was another release that I wasn’t aware of prior to today. The perfect LTM label has continued with their curative re-issuing of the Crepuscule label and they have re-issued “East-West” as a full length CD appended with a “live in Japan” session. I’d better grab these soon since it might be another long wait before any further music from Anna Domino gets released. That’s a shame, since she is a consistent performer who embodies musical values of poise and restraint that I cherish in this maudlin world.
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