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Diable Amoreux - Zwergen

This is a real strange one. Diable Amoreux hail from Tasmania and describe their myriad musical forms as gnomic, i.e. of the gnomes. Zwergen is their latest album in quite an extensive discography that stretches back to 1998. Lead by the enigmatic 7, this formation of Diable Amoreux features members of Beastianity, Spear of Longinus, Nux Vomica, The Yollering Woods, Alpha Centauri, Hail Satan and the Insane Fuckers and An Unearthly Child.

Zwergen opens with the chiming acoustic folk of 'Molly Dear Molly' where you're immediately distracted by the screeching-whiny sing-speak delivery of 7. His voice is dramatic, deranged and something of an acquired taste and really if you can't get beyond his theatrical tones Zwergen will be hard to take. 7's demented delivery reaches a peak on 'A Name To Curse' which pitches his dramatic devilish tones over a musical backing of bass, guitar and keyboard and countless sound effects (breaking glass, chiming bells, galloping horses...).

The themes are disparate and quite bizarre. 'Silly Holocaust' moves from oriental melody performed on a keyboard to acoustic guitar with 7's laconic drawl, and its massed nursery -rhyme chorus of "Silly, silly Holocaust". 'Blue Is Best' takes its inspiration from the children's television programme, The Magic Roundabout, picking up on its alleged druggy associations as a melange of voices announce "Dougal is a dog" and whisper "Zebedee, Zebedee..." The acoustic strum and whining delivery of 'Hewey Dewey' propounds the wonders of the library classification system. It makes me think Diable Amoreux may well be a They Might Be Giants for the neo-folk genre.

The slow acoustic strum of 'We of the Mountain' is played straight but letdown by the offputting high-pitched whine. The acoustic strum of 'Some Great Animal' could be simplistic neo-folk were it not for the croaked and cracked vocal delivery, and the occasional post-punk guitar lines. Zwergen succeeds when they open up the sound and allow other vocal contributions. 'The Hemlock Drinker' is an experimental soundpiece with a thick Australian accented voice speaking of a "philosophy of hate" with lines that range from "nail and tooth" to "I'm crazy like a dingo" and the recurring references to the colour blue that appear throughout Zwergen. 'Spinning Wheels and Maiden Wheels' casts a story about fertility rites, with 7's croaked delivery surrounded by choruses of sixties folk harmonies. 'Slitweitz', the closing track, spoken by a female contributor comes close to something Current 93 might have done.

This really is a strange release though. The cover and sleevenotes are adorned with runes but Zwergen mostly avoids the themes usually associated with neo-folk. It largely delivers Diable Amoreux's take on neo-folk but with the overt theatrical delivery and childlike voices Zwergen might well be the first gnomic folk album for children. Otherwise, for all its idiosyncrasies, it's definitely an acquired taste. For more information go to www.diableamoreux.com