Anna Domino: East And West – Album Review

Anna Domino: East And Westanna

Les Disques Du Crepuscule

Vinyl only

Released 5th May 2017

Vinyl only reissue of the 1984 debut mini-album by American Nouveau Torch singer Anna Domino, assisted by Tuexedomoon’s Blaine L Reininger and Ravishing Beauties’ Virginia Astley. This disc now comes with associated single sides and the unreleased demo “Dream Back” appended. Ian Canty feels both charmed and slightly spooked by the ambience being spiked with just a touch of menace……………

By 1984 Jazz had somehow bounced back from the BBC2/Trad/Cleo Laine seemingly moribund modes to re-assert itself once again as a force in the pop market. With a fair bit owed to the original Jazzy torch singers the mono-monkered artists Sade and Carmel were, if not quite cleaning up in the UK charts, at the very least boasting healthy sales. Also the Post Punk period had been marked by glances backs to the more avant-garde and experimental end of the genre. For instance the Pop Group and ATV/Good Missionaries wild and unfettered surges bore the mark of Skronk/Free Jazz. There were hints of Jazz in the downbeat and sparse wonder of the Young Marble Giants and even more so their follow-on band Weekend. At the more bog standard level the likes of Roman Holiday tried to capture some “hey let’s put on a show” Cliff and the Shadows lightning in their bottle of woe and combined this with some sort of “Swing”.

So where did all this leave Anna Domino (born Anna Virginia Taylor), the Toyko born US based solo artist who once nearly joined the legendary Bush Tetras, on her debut mini-album East And West which is what we have before us? Roughly in the middle I would have thought, appealing but retaining a strong sense of mystery.

After a host of other auditions and ill-fated attempts to form bands, the solo Anna issued the Trust In Love 7″ in 1983, which was made single of the week in the NME. The final track on the original Crepuscule release of East And West, it features an almost funky bassline and distant, high vocals – an enigmatic charmer. It obviously greatly intrigued the NME and set the tone for the mini-album.

Though this record definitely had its poppy and appealing elements, there was also a pronounced air of slight unreality and a dream-like, floating feel, moving possibly onwards towards nightmares. Tuxedomoon’s Blaine L Reininger contributes, perhaps bringing with him the mild sense of unease perfected by his parent group’s quieter moments. Though there is no doubt that Anna Domino was taking things in her own unique direction. There’s a great version cover of Aretha Franklin’s Land Of My Dreams and Everyday I Don’t resembles what I imagine a slightly more jaunty Nico would have sounded like, beautiful but full of regret. The flip of the Trust In Love single, Repeating, has a strangely Eastern European/Polka(?) flavour, it’s a very infectious groove that houses a world-weary song of cheating and deception.

Another single Zanna is also added here and features Domino duetting with Electro titan Luc Van Acker – a good record that builds from a basic clip-clop percussion. The misspelt “Rythm”, that was recorded with the founder of Telex Marc Moulin (probably best known in the UK for their vocoder enhanced 1979 hit cover of Bill Haley and the Comets’ Rock Around The Clock), houses a “Swing” style ballad in some appealing Electronica. This collection concludes with the previously unissued 1984 demo of a song called Dream Back, recorded with Stanton Miranda aka co-conspirators Thick Pigeon. It’s tough to see why this never received exposure at the time, as it is a pleasingly smoky piece of contemporary Jazz Pop.

East And West is a chance to catch the early stirrings of a long running career of an artist whose delicately crafted strangeness was both accessible and infectious. It works as fine introduction into her world, off-centre and much richer than our own.

Anna Domino’s Facebook page is here

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All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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