The delightfully named Kira Skov is new to me. Something of a Danish Patti J. Harvey, she's been a spectre on the scene in her native Denmark for the best part of three decades now without making much of a splash elsewhere, save for those in the know.
Her latest record Spirit Tree should bring her to the attention of a wider audience. Largely because it's made up of duets with the likes of Mark Lanegan, Bonnie Prince Billy, Bill Callahan, John Parish and Lenny Kaye, but also because it's really good, pure and simple.
This largely sticks to a formula that we're familiar with by now. The elfin siren, with a tall brooding man hovering somewhere at the edge of the frame simmering with dark intent. Murder Ballads essentially. We've seen this before with Lee & Nancy, Nick & Kylie, Mark & Isobel, this particular road is a well known and trodden one.
For the most part Skov sticks to this script and it's probably where the record is at its most successful. Occasionally she comes across as a little more whacky as on Dusty Kate where she starts warbling 'Do your Kate Bush thing for me ..' repeatedly and it doesn't really work. It's important somehow to play it totally straight in this particular sub-genre. That's how to extract the black comedy from this sort of heightened melodrama.
There's much here that does work however. Skov has a truly spectral voice and she and her partners in song combine eerily on several occasions. Idea of Song her duet with Lanegan, and Love is a Force, where Callahan joins the fray, are particularly effective, probably the record's highlights.
I'm a sucker for this dark seance schtik, and have been since I first heard Dancing Barefoot and Some Velvet Morning back in the Eighties, round about the time I got used to and began to love how Nico sounded on Velvet Underground records.
Not all of this comes off. As I've hinted Skov, is prone to occasional barmy, leftfield turns which break the spell somewhat. Perhaps it's slightly overlong and might have benfitted from some judicious pruning. But there's much here that should appeal to the crowd that likes to dress in black.