Tales From the Forest

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After two excellent EPs, Copenhagen makes the leap to a full-length album with the smoky, dramatic Tales From the Forest, laden with all the late-night jazz-touched moodiness anyone could want, somewhere between Scott Walker's dreams, Marc Almond's wet streets, and Gallon Drunk's hangovers. Those already taken with the early releases will find no surprises per se with the style or delivery of the songs, but happily the band don't simply re-record old material -- every song is a new one, and all drip with beautiful tension, thanks to exquisite performances. The vocal team of Neil Henderson on lead and Pauline and Jacqui Cuff on backing singing again blends together very well, suggesting just enough sex and sorrow to underpin all the songs with the right atmosphere. As for the music, Kirsa Wilkenschidt is once again the group's not-so-secret heart, her vibraphone and accompanying keyboards the core sonic signature of the tunes, meditative and attention-getting all at once, setting counterpart melodies to the singing. The other instrumentalists discharge themselves very well, John Hutchison on trumpet and Ruth Gottlieb on violin and viola forming as much of a team as the rhythm section of John Emmerson and Andy Thompson. Standout songs are everywhere, but among the best are "Summer's Gone," Henderson and Wilkenschidt's lead performances the core of a mesmerizing swing, and the harpsichord-led "Blanket Show," a stentorian piece that maintains a fragile, brittle beauty, the Cuffs taking sole lead throughout. Other winners: "Happy Ever After," detailing a romantic situation gone miserably wrong over a slow, lugubrious downward spiral, Emmerson and Thompson measuring out the pace just so, and "Violets," which gives the Cuffs another chance to shine over a spare arrangement that suddenly bursts forth with Henderson's part.

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