Although I had read many times about The Joy of Nature (and his Discipline) I had never really listened to them. Now that was a stupid thing to do and I am very lucky to have alleviated my loss. So there. ‘AGkaanta, asRti, Parasamgate’ is the name of their new release that commemorates the ten years of existence of this astonishing band. The entire record contains more than 73 minutes of music, divided in twenty one tracks. The record is self-released, and comes in a hand woven package with a flower. This is pure one-of-a-kind folk spirit! The record is limited to 100 copies, and I entice you purchase it ASAP, since I am pretty sure there will be almost none left by this time. Luis Couto also includes special excerpts from a book in each record, and has created a blog compiling this information, which you can check here
The record is a collection of some old stuff, mostly unreleased tracks, some new material, some versions. The music is the perfect combination of haunting folk and dark tinges of obscure melodies. Each song lists the instruments used for its creation, offering a large collection of ideas for any folk lover: Tibetan loop, tambourine, wind chimes, zither, guitar, organ, harp, glasses, and a countless list of possibilities. The songs unite a certain oriental bluntness, a thick folk, ritual and sometimes native sounding backbone and the somber use of voice lines. Almost moving into ethic or new age in some songs with the soundtrack use of water or background samplers (as in ‘A Theatre burning in the Night Sky’), the songs always twist around, like a snake, to transform into a darker version of themselves and leave any sort of mainstream way behind while treading into a more bizarre universe. The sound flows from folk to extremely medieval sounding, to freestyle troubadour, to experimental and minimal. The only influences one might recognize are Durtro and the most experimental Current 93, perhaps only because of the type of instruments, the thick organ and the rich chord instruments.
From my personal favorites, I pick out ‘Enquanto o rio corre’. It opens with the sound of water running and a languid, melancholic melody brought by the piano. The voices appear almost as in a chanting, and soon fall into the emptiness the sounds manage to create. The song, like many in the record, then alters into a clear composition, almost chill-out new age except in the unnerving version. The voice murmurs, whispers, gapes. The experimental fairy-like ‘The order behind and beyond all things’ has an amazing evolution, from electric soundscapes to the organic drops of bells that shift mechanical into organic in some brief minutes. The violin then moves the song into tragic, theatrical sounds, until the song flickers and dies. ‘The world is burning, so let us walts’ is another work of art in atmosphere – where the drums and voices blend together into a perfect mix to then dissolve into the beautiful guitar melody. The song would be a perfect example of post-rock ambiance, if it weren’t simply so brilliant and superior. ‘Boliana’ is also unsettlingly beautiful, where the quietness of a continuous piano is swayed by guitar lines. All in all, the record is almost shocking in its variety, yet at the same time manages to keep a unifying line of compositions. Perhaps it’s the foggy, grey splendor of each image, or the decadent, brittle sceneries the music beckons. If there were a parallel world of living nature in a planet like ours, for sure it would move in shades of silver and teal and sound like this.

If CDs were graded in accordance with their ability to come up with an original and innovative design, this one would win hands down. The jewel case and its special hand-numbered cards are enclosed in a little black pouch, complete with an intricate flowery motif made out of authentic fish-scales and a unique fastening that is rather like unbuttoning a mini-cardigan on your favourite cuddly toy to see if the manufacturers bothered to provide it with any genitalia ... but enough of my warped childhood fantasies, already! There are only 100 of these little beauties in existence and the release is designed to celebrate the first ten years of The Joy of Nature itself. This is the Portugeuse brainchild of a certain Luis Couto and previous releases have included 'The Fog That Life Is Haunted By' (2003 & 2006), 'The Shepherd's Tea' (2006) and 'The Shepherd's Tea at 7' (2006). Apart from a swift perusal of TJON on Myspace, I hadn't heard a great deal by this well-respected project and was keen to find out whether the music was a match for the impressive aesthetics. The title, 'aGkaanta, asRti, Parasamgate' is a Sanskrit phrase relating to the end of a theatrical performance, a certain forgetfulness and of going into the beyond. The images in the CD insert depict a woman picking her way through a subterranean chamber, flanked by shadowy trees and a discarded lute, whilst elsewhere she is seen walking naked beside fiery columns as a demon hides behind one of the stone pillars. The first of the album's 21 tracks, 'Introducao aos Bosques Escuros e aos Teatros do Mar' (meaning 'Introduction to the Dark Forests and the Theatres of the Sea'), is full of jangling wind-chimes, impending strings and the softly-spoken vocals of Ernesto Ferreira. The beautiful sound of a penny whistle drifts across the background, the complex but harmonious cacophony slowly making way for the unmistakable twang of a Jew's harp. It's an opening full of trepidation and suspense. Like a travelling carnival in a world of fantasy, 'A Theatre Burning in the Night Sky' continues in the same dramatic vein. Again, the instrumentation is numerous and labyrinthine, but all held together nicely by the enduring tin whistle. Whoops and yells are coupled with lyrics about a black sun in an endless sky. 'Enquanto o rio corre...' (meaning 'While the River Runs') is an amazing watery odyssey which is carried along by Ana Salome's tinkering piano and the sharp plucking of an acoustic guitar. As ever, Luis Couto's voice is full of sincerity, depth and strong emotion. Next comes 'The Twilight of the Old King II', its digeridoo swooping in like a low-flying aircraft before being replaced by a bowed psalter and drifting choral voices. 'Um Fogo na Nevoa' (meaning 'A Fire in the Mist') is more upbeat. A strumming guitar and lively chorus is joined by Nerunbrir's swaying viola and the gentle wheeze of J. Aernus's accordian. This is an outstanding exercise in contemporary Folk music and is one of the best tracks on the album. 'Uma Noite de Chuva no Jardim da Ilha Encatada' (meaning 'A Rainy Night in the Garden of Encatada Island'), meanwhile, sees the return of the viola from the previous track. In places, this - along with the guitar, tin whistle and drum - sounds remarkably like Planxty in their prime. There is a distinct Neofolk quality to the track, too, with some rainy samples thrown in for good measure. By the time we get to 'Persona II' it's still raining and Luis Couto opens his umbrella and decides to go it alone. Not that he can resist performing about eleven different roles, though, of course. This is a fantastic song, which, despite the breadth of instrumentation employed, as well as the passionate vocals, is often quite minimalist. 'The Book of the Dead' is a Tibetan dreamscape of nightmare proportions, with R.R.'s sampled contributions underlining the bellowing didgeridoo and Armenian duduk. This album just gets better and better. 'The Order Behind and Beyond All Things' is a very traditionalist title indeed, but rather than assume any recognisable form in and of itself, this track is performed as a shapeless ambience with peeling bells, drawn-out synths and slow violins. You can feel yourself becoming absorbed within the enticing layers of Nothingness. The wind-chimes from the very beginning are brought back into the fold during the tenth track, 'Fire Only Rests When There's Nothing Left To Burn', but this time we have an Indian flute and Rui Almeida's electric guitar to contend with. It works brilliantly, yet another original soundscape to induce and conjure up evocative images as you listen by candlelight with a glass of red wine in your hand. Well, that's how I did it, anyway, but it's certainly no exaggeration to say that Luis Couto has an uncanny ability to transport his listeners to another dimension. The dauntingly-titled 'Fantasmas e Duendes Costumavam Dormir no Meu Sofa, a Altas Horas da Noite. E Voltarao a Faze-lo' is almost as long as a song in itself and is very different to its predecessors because it was first released as a collaboration with Aquarelle. The Folk genre is put to one side now, as TJON and partners - along with Ana Salome's piano - become the vehicle for an excursion into the dark ambient world of throbbing electronics and a subversive tonal discharge. The TJON and Aquarelle team then launch into 'O Embalo des Sereias', with Antonio Feijo's violin and Mara Neves childlike vocals leading you on another imaginative outing that simply doesn't last long enough. Next we have Luis Couto's other project, Post Crash High, with a track called 'The World is Burning, so Let Us Walts' (sic). This is like a foot-tapping song from the Wild West that eventually stings your eardrums with its aural ferocity before calming right down and then returning to the cowboy-like strains of Hank Marvin on valium. 'A Lament for This Cursed Age' comes from the period when TJON was known as The Joy of Nature and Discipline, although it has been updated since the time it first appeared as part of the 'Falesia' compilation in 2007. The recurring infatuation with water makes a reappearence, as do the wind-chimes and various percussion samples. TJON&D are then joined by the aforementioned Post Crash High for 'The 'Glorious' Civilisation is Falling'. Bombastic drumbeats, three different guitars, chattering birdsong and even a hair dryer (!) are thrown together with an Irish harp to bring about a welcome return to the strong Folk themes which appear on the first half on the album. Fittingly, perhaps, and certainly in accordance with the title, there is even a funeral dirge right at the end. TJON&D's 'Spirals' - one of Luis Couto's earliest efforts - was composed with the assistance of Andre Franco and first appeared on the 'Nemeth' compilation as far back as 1999. Apart from the use of the transversal flute it's none too memorable and is fairly basic compared to the rest of the album, but it does serve to illustrate just how much progress Couto himself has made these last nine years. 'Boliana' is another Aquarelle collaboration and is a really spaced-out affair featuring some beautifully mellow guitar riffs that wouldn't be out of place on a Rock album. Aquarelle are there again for 'Fechando a Caixa das Memorias' (meaning 'Closing the Box of Memories') and Mara Neves adds a touch of vocal sublimity to the effortless folds of ambience with their endless synths and birdsong. TJON then return, alone, for 'Ecos que Mostram o Circulo' (which broadly translates as 'Echoes That Show the Circulated'). Here the electric guitar is full of vitriol, used in a similar way to that on 'Reign I Forever' by Blood Axis, and buzzes its way through a haze of barking dogs, heavy drones, indistinguishable chants, various splashing sounds, laughing children and horses. An acoustic guitar is brought in for 'Agora que Sabemos o que Faltava' (meaning 'Now We Know What It Lacked'), but the most interesting feature is the use of the adufe, an instrument with interesting Moorish origins which is covered with goatskin and tassles and shaped like a square tamborine. Again, this is quite Neofolk in terms of the vocals and the guitar, but more diverse and sophisticated. The final track, 'De Regresso aos Bosques, a Outros Bosques' (which means 'Of Return to the Forests, Other Forests'), sees TJON reunited with Andre Franco and his transversal flute. As the duduk washes over your consciousness it brings forth images of Pan creeping through the woodlands, of another plane of existence beyond the comprehension of most people. And this, I think, is what this album represents. Despite the ambient moments, it's not background music and needs to be listened to intensely in order to be understood and appreciated. It's a kind of musical gnosis for those who know how to use it wisely and the sheer effort that has gone into this composition is tremendous and must have been incredibly time-consuming. Meanwhile, The Joy of Nature have just released 'The Empty Circle Part One: Swirling Lands of Disquiet and Catharsis'. I can't wait to hear it.
Troy Southgate

To review the releases of THE JOY OF NATURE is to go into an enigmatic voyage to the realms of beautiful atmospheres, in deep soundscapes creating, visualizing elements of nature. To explore an universe of possibilities where all laws becomes one, and one becomes all. The magnitude of THE JOY OF NATURE is impressive, because through each release, Luis Couto, the mastermind of this act, offer us a high variety of diverse instruments, sounds and electronic devices which breaks all possible limits when creating music.
This album is a kind of commemoration for the 10 years of existence; in which THE JOY OF NATURE express just a part of the whole potential hidden. The music is in a word, sublime, it takes your heart due emotional soundscapes created here. With more than 73 minutes of folk-ambient-drone music in which you can experience moments of pureness, melancholy, abandonement and mental retrospective… strange at moments, sad at others, but always moving your feelings into different structures in which you find yourself lost in a realm of your own nature.
This album combines new songs alongside with compilation tracks and reworked music by side projects. Some of the new songs were based or featured old recordings. The whole 21 tracks included here are brilliant, a congregation of diverse natures reflected through instruments such as Violin, Viola De Terra,Irish Harp,Harmonica,Kantele,Acoustic guitars,Duduk,Indian Flute, Alpine Zither,Accordion,Percussive sounds, Drones and Field Recordings, just to name some of them. Also the inclusion of chorus, vocals, spoken voices, whispers, each track is dressed with such captivating atmospheres surrounding the sensibility of air, the strong of water, the enigmatic light of fire and the creative force of earth. Each seed (Songs) germinating, mutating into new forms, giving birth to sonic organisms.
To ask about each track will take us pages and pages. So, we must say this one is one of the best releases coming lately to my hands. Hearing this album last night, I was thinking how is possible someone will create the whole music alone; under which creative sources the mind & spirit of an individual could develops music in the way as THE JOY OF NATURE does. And more when we look the innovative design, the special package which is a woven small one with a flower. Limited to 100 copies only, and also comes with a card with an excerpt from a book in a package, there are a hundred different excerpts choosen for this release. For more information just contact Mr. Couto,to enter this realm of nature, and to feel the splendor of creative musical opus through ritual folk expressionism with such experimental, minimal atmospheres converging all the time. Just wait for a full interview next months.

What is striking about this release is that despite the different origins of the tracks, the sound and atmosphere on the album are quite consistent. I would typify The Joy of Nature as a kind of relaxed mediterranean neofolk, with an emphasis on a mystical and dreamy atmosphere. A wide variety of instruments is used, including guitars, zithers, harps, piano and other string instruments, synths, percussion, field recordings, and various types of vocals, mostly whispered and sung. The result is a very clear and organic sound that should appeal both to lovers of more conventional neofolk and those who prefer dreamy, wyrd or even fantasy atmospheres. A couple of tracks have a slightly more intense or martial tinge to them, which makes this release a nice change from what I've heard on the two The Shepherd's Tea releases. At times, when listening closely, the album feels a bit long or monotonous, but the atmosphere is constant and quite good, and would be a perfect soundtrack for reading, or a game.
I haven't been disappointed by this project yet, and I really recommend picking this up if you are into neofolk. This handmade release is perhaps not the cheapest, but a lot of work has been put into it, and you get a unique package that is well worth it. I'm looking forward to more material!

The Joy Of Nature is a neo-folk band who also uses a lot of experimentation. They also try to renew themselves with every release, so that things are always in progression.
The release is actually called ‘The Joy Of Nature Presents: Agkaanta Asrti Parasamgate’, which sounds like it is an collaborative effort. And that’s right, some tracks are made in collaboration with Post Crash High and Aquarelle. The album balances nicely between soundscapes and neo-folk songs, throughout its 21 tracks! A lot of the soundscapes feel very environmental, in balance with nature. Also, from what I understand, this work is more a collection of unreleased material, compilation tracks and reworked older songs, then a completely new release.
The album’s artwork, which is released in own management, is the ultimate in collector’s items; it’s a limited and numbered album which is placed inside a knitted little bag. So how’s that for special packaging! The music is nice for anybody into neo-folk and experimental soundscapes.

The new album by The Joy of Nature – "aGkaanta, asRti, Parasamgate" is released to commemorate the ten years of existence of The Joy of Nature. It contains 21 tracks, what makes more than 73 minutes of music, including 14 new unreleased tracks (some of them based on old recordings), tracks from compilations (including some on new versions) and tracks from The Joy of Nature's side projects.
The Joy Of Nature work broadly in the same area of esoteric folk as In Gowan Ring, inspired by the earth, myth, belief and the transformative potential of music. Their music is rooted in folk song and incorporates psychedelia, experimentalism, field recordings, drones and instrumental composition. There is a sense of awe and devotion in the music, that contemplates the beauty of our environment gradually being corrupted. There is great love for music here though which shines through and is often moving in the songs and childlike wonder of the melodies. The album represents a journey across their music and the evolution of its form. They are though highly talented musicians, able to convey the fragile perfection of our world. Without ever becoming too dark, obscure or formless, their music instead is carefully composed and structured. You might hear Harold Budd in addition to Current93, Tor Lundvall as well as Orchis.
They do not want their releases to be just music, listened to and disregarded. Instead they are complete sensory experiences arriving in specially made sleeves with herbs, booklets and charms carefully created by the artist as intrinsically important to the way in which the music is heard. This set arrived in a knitted red cover and a flower made out of dried fish flakes. Each person who orders the limited edition CD version with this sleeve also gets a personally dedicated card, it really is a labour of love.

El presente trabajo es una de las mayores sorpresas que he tenido desde hace bastante tiempo en materia musical. No sólo por la música en sí, que como expondré a continuación es bastante personal e innovadora, sino porque, de una manera individualizada, invitan al oyente a que comparta un momento de reflexión con ellos.
Desde el primer momento que ves el trabajo ya te das cuenta de que es especial: una bolsita de lana blanca y azul con bordados y que se cierra con un botón. Esto hace que de entrada trates con mimo este trabajo. Lo abres y te encuentras por una parte un CD-R con su correspondiente libreto y una hoja negra manuscrita que no solo está personalizada, en este caso para Mentenebre, sino que además lleva inscrita una frase extraída de alguno de sus libros de referencia y que, en este caso pertenece al "Demian" de Herman Hesse, de la cual hablaremos. Pues bien, todos y cada uno de los que adquieran esta edición limitada tendrán un texto particular. The Joy of Nature nos proponen que con la escucha del CD y con la lectura del texto, traslademos nuestra impresión a un blog que han creado al efecto. Hacen partícipes a los oyentes de la obra. Me parece una iniciativa loable.
Empecemos con la música. La primera barrera, su definición. No hay duda de que con el nombre del grupo y los títulos de algunas de las canciones estamos hablando del poder de la Madre Naturaleza. Hablar de la Madre, o mejor dicho, cantarla, requiere de sus elementos: viento, madera, percusión, pero con un acento antiguo, lo que nos aproxima a la corriente Neofolk, pero ojo, conservando las distancias. Es verdad que alguna pieza está cantada, pero en su mayoría las piezas son instrumentales. Sucede también que su estructura se aleja de la estructura de canción pop, hay incierto velo de experimentación y de paisaje sonoro. Es un paso más en la evolución del Neofolk que no había escuchado hasta la fecha. Con su música te trasladan a tiempos remotos, te conectan con seres fantásticos, te sitúan en parajes deslumbrantes. Escapismo puro y duro.
Eso hace muy especial este CD, si además lo empleamos para reflexionar sobre el texto propuesto. Como datos relevantes a señalar sobre el álbum, se compone en su mayoría de piezas inéditas hasta la fecha, versiones y colaboraciones con sus grupos paralelos. Así hay colaboraciones con Post Crash High, Discipline o Aquarelle, que vienen a significar diferentes perspectivas sobre el concepto del álbum.
Y quiero terminar con el comentario acerca del texto que nos proponen:
“Si odias a una persona, tú odias algo en él que es parte de ti mismo. Aquello que no es parte de nosotros mismos no nos disturba”.
Prefiero pasar esta frase a su contraria: si eres capaz de amar a alguien, lo que amas en él es lo que amas de ti mismo. Si te amas a ti mismo al completo, si no odias nada de tu ser, ni física ni psíquicamente, no serás capaz de odiar a nadie, estarás completamente seguro de ti mismo. Del mismo modo, si te amas a ti mismo y encuentras a otra persona a la que te das cuenta que amas es porque verás en ella todas sus virtudes, aquellas virtudes que están dentro de ti. La amarás por ello.
Yo creo en el Amor como religión verdadera. Amate a ti mismo y verás el mundo que te rodea con toda plenitud.
8,5/10 Pedro Ortega