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Défilé des Âmes - Lust 'n' Stone

One of the bonuses arising from Lust 'n' Stone is the first full-length release from Défilé des Âmes, a Greek outfit with an expansive line-up - though each track only features a sub-section of musicians. Only Manos 6, a multi-instrumentalist, appears throughout Lust 'n' Stone, his heavy accented voice leading us through songs of psychedelic spiritualism, carnal desire - based on writings by Anton Szandor LaVey, the late High Priest of the Church of Satan - and tracks that range from post-punk to neo-classical.

A number of members are active in Trick or Treat - an independent underground art movement involved in everything from photography to pornography, which may explain why the sleeve is adorned with some stunning antique erotic photography.

Défilé des Âmes are described by their label, Ahnstern, as passionate neo-folk. Listening to Lust 'n' Stone it's clear that only tells part of the story. Sure the first few tracks, especially 'Mushrooms' with its lilting acoustic folk backed by a small ensemble of players perform some fine dark folk. What's great about Défilé des Âmes is that their ensemble features clarinet, oboe and French horn, and they're anything but generic. The opening track opens to the strains of a crackly dancehall record segueing into sprightly folk guitar that swells into full acoustic folk before dropping to percussion and mandolin - and that percussion is largely bongo based. 'Welcome' pits the soft plucks of mandolin to a downbeat rhythm, while someone exhales loudly and a French horn parps. The speckling of acoustic guitar and oboe of 'Eosforou Fos' rises into strident acoustic folk strum, while the clarinet lets loose with some free-form eastern blurting against some forthright drum rhythms. The booming bass and crashing drums of 'Liar …!' are pushed forwards by the sweeping strings of guest violinist Matt Howden. The entire track possesses an urgency, reminiscent of East European post-punk, largely due to the repeated impassioned strains of "Liar" and the frenetic interplay between violin and clarinet. 'Eilem A est Morte' and 'Under the Spell' change the tone entirely, conjuring images of post war recitals. 'Eilem A est Morte' - dedicated to Ataraxia - is more neo-classical based around melodica, cello, mandolin and classical guitar, while 'Under the Spell' is drenched in accordion with male and female vocals that are deployed in a decidedly neo-folk manner.

At points listening to Lust 'n' Stone I'm reminded of Sol Invictus, O Paradis, Ianva. Défilé des Âmes appear adept at absorbing influences into their varied sound. Maybe it's down to the expanded and revolving cast of musicians but there's fluency to their playing. Défilé des Âmes could be the first of the neo-folk improvisers - I bet they're good live. The final track 'August' encapsulates much of the album as it flows from forlorn acoustic passages, driving acoustic folk, via weeping string sections.

On the evidence of Lust 'n' Stone it's obvious why Ahnstern, a progressive neo-folk label, were attracted to them. Défilé des Âmes dovetail with elements of neo-folk but Lust 'n' Stone, like labelmates, Allerseelen, Werkraum, Sangre Cavallum et al, ultimately transcends that stifling label. For more information go to www.geocities.com/ahnstern or www.steinklang-records.at