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Anna Domino \ Biography

Born in Tokyo, Anna Domino (born Anna Taylor) divided her childhood years between Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Florence in Italy, before landing in Ottawa in time for sullen and disaffected teenagerdom. This itinerant past goes a long way towards explaining her cosmopolitan musical style.

Settling in New York in 1977, Anna carved out a niche refurbishing lofts, and made clothes, furniture and objects from fabric leather and found material. As well as her own groups Madder Lake, which didn't get to cut a record, Anna also tried out for several other bands, including Bush Tetras and Polyrock, who soon after recorded an album with Philip Glass producing. Anna also played with a couple of one-shot bands, notably Mania D and Tar.

Meanwhile Anna began to hone her own songwriting talents, and in 1983 a cassette of simple yet promising songs caught the ear of chic Belgian independent label Les Disques du Crépuscule. A single, Trust in Love, appeared in October, and was made a single of the week by the NME. It was followed in February 1984 by the mini album East & West, five bittersweet lullabyes steeped in late-night melancholy. With a superb, vulnerable cover of Aretha Franklin's Land of My Dreams included, the record radiated an atmosphere of loss, longing and detachment, Anna's sensual vocal style adding further to its bewitching quality. Guest musicians included Tuxedomoon man Blaine Reininger and Virginia Astley. Land of My Dreams was to have been remixed for single release by Ben Watt of Everything But the Girl, but the project was never completed.

From 1984 onwards Anna elected to spend half of each year in New York, and the other half in Brussels, where the Crépuscule empire was based. Her acclaimed 'Rythm' ep (the misspelling was deliberate) appeared in May, and thanks to be-bop influences and latin percussion was a Top Ten hit in Belgium and Scandinavia. Anna also performed live for the first time - in Japan! - as part of a Crépuscule package tour in May, together with Paul Haig, Wim Mertens, Blaine Reininger and Steven Brown.

March 1986 saw the release of her first album proper, simply titled Anna Domino. Produced by Alan Rankine (Associates) and Marc Moulin (Telex), the record was an immediate success, mixing her cool, reflective vocals and intelligent lyrics with the addictive rhythmic styles typified by the singles Take That and Summer, the latter remixed by New York maestro Arthur Baker. An extensive European tour followed, and a string of licensing deals around the world all helped the make the album one of the major independent successes on 1986. In the UK, the album appeared on the cult Manchester label Factory Records, and Anna also provided guest vocals on the album Infected by The The.

If Anna's records often sound deceptively 'pop', her lyrics are quite another matter. The words are charged with fragility, anger, self doubt, sometimes even chaos, and often take our hand only to lead us towards the dark end of the street. In August 1986 she revealed to UK paper Sounds: "The lyrics might deal with failure or seem like a crushing weight, but I don't believe the world is going to end or anything like that. But it's true that in my songs I am reacting from the point of view of somebody who is not actively in control. How I've learned to deal with my life is to acquiesce. I don't think that is particularly female, though."

1987 saw Anna join forces with Belgian multi-instrumentalist Michael Delory, and this enduring partnership survives into the present day. Together the pair began work on writing the classic songs which form the second Anna Domino album, This Time, recorded with noted British engineer Flood. The album was less groove-orientated than its predecessor and instead offered stronger songs delivered in a variety of styles, be they uptempo dance tracks (Time For Us, She Walked), ballads (the singles Lake and Tempting) or country-folk (Own Kind). Here Anna was truly at the top of her game, and it's a measure of the caliber of the writing that a song as strong as Hammer could be relegated to b-side status. Although the planned release through Virgin failed to materialise, the album was still a significant commercial and critical success on release in November 1987, particularly in Japan. But there can be no escaping the fact that by now Anna should have been having bona fide hit records, and swimming mainstream.

Sadly live dates were restricted to Japan alone, and a low-key club residency in New York at the beginning of 1988. Here Domino and Delory previewed five new songs which were subsequently recorded for the mini album Colouring in the Edge and the Outline. More experimental than previous releases, the set embraced sequenced electronics, best heard on the anthemic '88, and it remains Anna's favourite record. Incidently the vinyl format is well worth searching out, since the songs all appeared on one side, the other given over to an etching by Crépuscule design genius Benoît Hennebert.

After an extended period writing new songs, Domino and Delory relocated to New York in 1990 and returned with a new album at the end of the year. Mysteries of America contained nine new songs produced by Anton Sanko, best known for his work with Suzanne Vega, and explored acoustic settings in greater depth than on previous records. It is a travelogue of sorts, starting with a memory of childhood and ending with the Big Sleep Pandora is dreamy and druggy, and in Bonds of Love Anna turned in one of her very best songs, as well as a celestial interpretation of Jesse Winchester's Isn't That So.

Sadly Mysteries made less impact than Anna Domino and This Time, and would prove to be the last album of new material released by Domino and Delory under that name. A compilation, Favourite Songs from the Twilight Years 1984-90, appeared in Canada in 1996, and was followed by the album Songs From My Funeral in 1999. Released under the name Snakefarm, this project comprised radical reinventions of blues and folk songs about trains, drink, murder and jails, playing down the melodic lines and instead constructing the performances around rhythms and grooves. A logical progression from the European period, it whetted the appetite for new material by a gifted singer-songwriter who has been too quiet too long.

Anna Domino returned with two new tracks on the compilation After Twilight in 2010, while 2011 brought a second Snakefarm album, My Halo at Halflight. In 2013 Anna and Michel began touring again, performing acoustic shows featuring Snakefarm material and Anna Domino originals in America and Europe.

Anna Domino