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ANNA DOMINO (Buy CDs by this artist)
East and West EP (Bel. Crépuscule) 1984
Anna Domino (Bel. Crépuscule) 1986
This Time (Bel. Crépuscule) 1987 (Giant) 1988
Colouring in the Edge and the Outline EP (Bel. Crépuscule) 1988 (Giant) 1989
Mysteries of America (Bel. Crépuscule) 1990

Transcontinental chanteuse Domino was born in Tokyo, but lived in Italy and Canada before moving to New York, where she played in an early version of Polyrock. She later fell in with the Brussels art-quiet crowd and began a career writing and recording dignified pop songs. Following the East and West mini-LP, Domino made her full-length debut, produced half-and-half by Alan Rankine of the Associates and Marc Moulin of Telex.

The first Domino record to see American release, This Time, was co-written with Belgian multi-instrumentalist Michel Delory (her creative partner ever since) and produced by UK technologist Flood (Erasure, etc.). A weak collection of diversely dull music, nice but unambitious singing and sensitive lyrics that fall just short of imaginative, This Time is not that far from a synthesized Motels album.

Colouring in the Edge unearths a much more productive approach. Domino's vocals reach an understated eloquence (doubling herself on "Luck" adds to the handsome effect) over music that alternates light naturalism ("Clouds of Joy," "Perfect Day — No, He Says") and jittery but intimate sequencers ("88"). This time, Domino comes off like a suave Suzanne Vega minus the urban poetry. (On the 12-inch record's original Belgian release, all five songs are mastered on one side, leaving the other to an artistic engraving.)

For most of Mysteries of America, acoustic guitar, incidental string accents and the merest bits of percussion (bongos are the loudest rhythm element) set off Domino's wispiest singing and most involving lyrics. The continental folk of "Paris," the jazzy "Tamper with Time," the courtly lullaby "Dust" and "Isn't That So" (a Jesse Winchester cover) are all quite lovely, drawing the listener further into Domino's world. But she hasn't completely broken off her affair with synthesizers, and allows the mildly overactive chatter of several numbers ("Bonds of Love," for one) to interrupt the album's otherwise beguiling mood.

[Ira Robbins]