This is a half-hour concept mini-album which sets a type of epic soundtrack with some other shorter songs to the enclosed text which is called The Shepherd And The Lake Maiden [cited as a Joy of Nature’s tale inspired by [what I believe to be a Welsh] legend of the Meddygon Myddfai].
The package also came with a little bag of shepherds tea put in an envelope and stamped with that cute Joy of Nature logo.
Of course the shepherd’s tea is what the shepherd has to drink every night at seven so that he can get the maiden back since he struck her improperly three times and then left him.
The latter half of the tale is referred to in the first song, “The Longest And Deepest Sleep For The Shepherd And The Maiden,In The Woods, Near The Stream”.
To quote the last two paragraphs of the tale which are the most symbolic of this mini-album:
“The water, from stillness, became very turbulent, and a maiden made of water slowly took form, and then the water turned into flesh.
They walked several miles, to a wood, crossed by a small stream. They lied down by the grass and embraced each other. As they embraced each other, their flesh turned into one, the fire inside him dissolving her water.
A purple light filled the horizons and gave light to the villages nearby.”
In this song the CD/art package notes that the mysterious LC plays “bowed psaltery, bowed kantele, acoustic guitar, alpine zither, kantele, recorder, cymbala, tabor drum, water and wind sounds, bells, wind chimes, harmonica, indian flute and drones made from bowed kantele and psaltery”
But when I roll this 15 minute epic soundtrack song, here is what I also hear:
Electronic music which is immediately a pleasurable comfortable memory of the better stuff I heard form the gloomy space epic rock label Kranky Records in Chicago, very beloved bands ala Labradford, Stars of the Lid, Bowery Electric, etc.
But then as honoured in the listed instrumentation, there are the blessedly quirky and surprising medieval acoustic events welcoming and haunting the shimmery, glistening postmodern electronic backgrounds which host a series of these divinely-inspired appearances as neo-pagan and neo-folk [ala Portland’s In Gowan Ring, or Portugal’s Sangre Cavallum, or Nature and Organisation] instrumental holy-water-like apparitional arrangements, brought in and out with so much romantically- inspired care and sincerity, [just like the packaging of handmade art], it’s obvious this is sacred, sensitive, beautifully done music and art coming from a very fine fellow named LC along with someone credited as Susana Mota for the artworks and paintings.
All the honoured emotions are there: struggle, pastoral introspection, empathy, sad passions, joyful actions, hard work, but what really sets it aside from novice neo-pagan or neo-folk music artists or from modern world, industrialized folks, [even though this is post-industrial cultured music], is its devotion to ‘the joy of nature’ as a symbolic or ritualized act, whether virtual or actual, in medieval instrumentations on top of post-modernly induced “dreamy” “visual”, “ritual” electronic backdrops. In other words the modern world’s electronic benefits made the old world expressions able to have a “special effect’, the vehicle which could adequately express the programmatic nature with the virtual reality of shimmering glistening light or most importantly, the alchemical sound of the lake and the water. Think of the film , Excalibur, when the lady of the lake arises with the King Arthur’s sword or something similar..
Shards of light are LC’s calling when it comes to the choice of dark electronics and light acoustics. What you hear is light, but the darkness surely exists in his broken heart given the menacing of this very esoteric, melancholic, Romantic, almost GRIM tale.
But also what is LC’s calling is the sweet and innocent, the high-art of the highly-quirky in the appearances of the medieval instruments’ motifs, almost miniaturized to completely fit as the soundtrack to this type of literature and this type of artwork as seen in the above logo. And the project is nothing apart from endearing and heart-warming!
With all of the programmatic aspects of literature to music to soundtrack, the tale is laid out exquisitely one after the other in all detail. The time it takes to trek from his house of hanging sheep up a struggling hill to the lake...things that exist in the joy of life, nature, and organization, but also the welcoming yet menacing approach of old-agedness and death. Where a dream world shimmers in its protection of the worthy individual who did his hard work in the name of fate and energetic fluxes of the production of Desire! A worker of the Land of the Unconsciouses, a community effort of the agricultural fields harvested by Leninist peasant laborers.
But of course the most programmatic element in this song of all is the sounds of the water at the end where she rises again, where they turn into one,, where the fire within dissolves her water,, where agedness and death’s approach becomes superfluous, and where the horizons for the villages nearby are filled with purple light, almost like a similar nature tale by Austro-Hungarian agricultural sects-rites-myths writer, Masoch ala Venus in Furs.
In the second song, “ Enchanting Lullaby For Su, The Maiden”, LC plays acoustic guitar, recorders, cymbala, bells, hand percussion, alpine zither, wind chimes and drones made from recorded instruments. It is only 5 minutes and twenty seconds this time.
In its pastoral, almost maritime bliss, I am somehow able to recall moods from listening to British bands on the Sarah or Cherry red labels, la Eyeless in Gaza, Field Mice, St. Christopher, Even as We Speak, etc, then it moves out into ambient territory with drifting psychedelic pagan landscapes ala Soviet France with wayfaring lost strummings and Death In June like bell sets.
The third song, “A Slumber Hangs Upon These Walls” has LC playing acoustic guitar, vocals, bowed electric guitar, kantele, cymbala, harmonica, bells, tabor drum and drones made from voice. And Ana Rocha played piano.
LC’s voice is cool, very whispery with a weird bird-wing fluttering effect on it. I can not but think of Ain Soph’s first self-titled album in this type esoterically sinister yet sacred vocal delivery. This song’s aesthetic is also ala In Gowan ring from Portland in its old world stylings of ‘lament’, ballads, verses.
In the fourth song, The shard like kranky records backdrop appears again for the appearances of: acoustic and electric guitars, tin whistles, bells, tambourine, hand and tabor drums.
But then a sort of Der Blutharsch much dark-folk-rockier thing starts to happen in its medieval arrangements, marking its post-industrial existence now here in 2007. There are even very French and Italian romantic tremolos not surprising for a Portugal resident. That bacchanalian stuff all suddenly disappears as an much more darker and twisted electronic drone comes back in to mark the appearance of the depths of a murky lake out of which the lake-maiden desired to rise.
And hand-written in pen signed by LC on the back flap of the book package is a a William Blake quote which is perfect to end this release:
“He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plough.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.”
Demian Mikeypup

This half hour concept mini-album is based on (and can be heard as the soundtrack to) the legend of the shepherd and the lake maiden from the thirteenth century Welsh manuscript, “Meddygon Myddfai”(‘The Physicians of Myddfai,’ a parish in Carmarthenshire). It is the second release from the extremely talented, Portuguese multi-instrumentalist, Luis Couto, who produces ambient, cinematic atmospherics that range from the haunting (the epic fifteen minute opener) to the romantic (the heartwarming finale and, essentially title track, “The Shepherd and The Lake-Maiden”) Couto wisely includes the legend in his liner notes (I suggest you read them while listening to gain the full effect of the work), so there’s no need for me to spoil the fun here. Our tale opens with the fifteen minute “The Longest and Deepest Sleep for The Shepherd and The Maiden, In the Woods, Near The Stream” (which takes almost as long to recite as it does to hear!), which begins with a maelstrom of sound collages that could just as easily represent the birth of the Cosmos as the maiden arising from Lake Lummen in Fogshire. Droning bowed psaltery and kantele swirl around tinkling bells and wind chimes, as a tenderly stroked acoustic guitar flickers in the distance and wanders into your consciousness like the warm sun spreading her rays across an open field. It’s all very tense, tentative and cinematic. I can definitely hear this accompanying Kubrick’s scenes of the monolith or the spaceship floating silently across the universe in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Water and wind sounds trickle out of your speakers at about the eight minute mark, reminding me of similar effects that form the backdrop of In Gowan Ring’s “Of Water Wiverings” and “Urn and Water” from his “Love Charms” debut (World Serpent, 1994). Electronic shards of shrieking bowed psaltery and the Finnish kantele split the night before Couto’s gently acoustic guitar, recorder and Indian flute, and tabor drums and bells commandeer the song at the ten minute mark. It’s a minor respite lasting nary a minute before ominous drones once again take center stage. This is perhaps the point in the tale where the shepherd and his wife’s marriage dissolves following the third time he strikes her (read the story).
A humming keyboard-like instrument yields to a tinkling toy piano, which fades into the background and is overcome by an enormous thunderstorm. Couto’s guitar returns to survey the scene…perhaps the maiden’s return to her husband? (again, read the story), as the two become one as they lie down alongside the stream.
Couto gives his maiden a name (Su) as an alpine zither duets with a recorder on the “Enchanting Lullaby for Su, The Maiden,” whose playful revelry is disturbed by the onset of cautious drones and wind chimes – could there be something approaching from the outer woodland area to disturb our maiden? A deliberately plucked zither and acoustic guitar exchanges furtive glances with bowed electric guitar and vocal drones as Ana Roca’s lonely, heavily distorted piano notes split the night around Couto’s sinister lyrical recitation, straight out of an old Peter Lorre movie on “A Slumber Hangs Upon These Walls.” We’ve arrived at the point in the story where the shepherd “felt a slumber descending from the walls. The slumber took control of his body, starting from his feet and rising through to his head until he felt a strange heat between his eyebrows.” The shepherd falls into a deep sleep and dreams that the maiden has ordered him “to go to the lake and play an enchanting lullaby to wake her up.” (See the aforementioned track).
Tin whistles, bells, tambourines and hand and tabor drums all collide in a merry danse macabre on the concluding segment. Ominous sound effects support the reunion of shepherd and his maiden – has he learned his lesson and will they live happily ever after? (I know, I know…read the story!) I’ll just suggest that the swirling music that recedes into the background comes full circle with the opening strains of the disk and let you experience the calming effect on your own. Couto is another of the fine young artists (such as In Gowan Ring, Novemthree, Damh the Bard, Prydwyn, and Stone Breath) who incorporate their love of nature and, frequently Celtic mythology, into their love of music and this is highly recommended to fans of any and all of these other wonderful artists.
Jeff Penczak

This album arrived on a three inch CD packaged in the most amazing hand crafted folder, layered with paper and string. I only wish I could adequately represent the care and creativity that had gone into its preparation. The mystery and anticipation of unwrapping the folder was an integral part of experiencing the music. Interwoven into the folder were herbs, pressed leaves and the text of the 'Shepherd and the Lake Maiden' tale. It was as though receiving a charm from the cunning folk by mail, the low magic of the people's pass down the centuries to me. This CD came out in December 2006 in very limited quantity and we are delighted to work with the artist to make it more widely available as a download.
I had heard of this artist (which is Luis Couto from Portugal) for a while but not experienced the music. Upon putting it on a slow ringing drone began emanating from singing bowls adorned by folkish whistles. Overtones rise in the drone creating transitory slow melodies. This slowly revealed piece is called 'The longest and deepest sleep for the Shepherd and the Maiden, in the woods, near the stream'. For nine minutes it ever so gradually builds a deep reverie. The magical sweeping chimes and flute melodies come to the fore as then does an almost choral swell before falling back into slightly more discordant plucks from harp and guitars. Eventually after fourteen minutes we seem to reach the lake, a state of bliss by the water being achieved.
The second piece is 'Enchanting Lullaby for Su, the Maiden'. Flute leads guitar, electronic chimes and slow hand drum. The music is like finding an unspoilt glade, still and undiscovered having a vitality and mystery all of its own. 'A Slumber Hangs Upon These Walls' is more ominous, backwards siren guitars calling out warnings, voices speak menacingly in English and perhaps in other languages. Then it evolves into a section of ponderous joy, guitars drifting in the forest breeze. The final piece on the CD is 'The Shepherd and the Lake Maiden'. Drums are more prominent here with a sense of foreboding in the pounding rhythms and the whistles. This gives way to guitars that play with a sense of wonder and then dark echoes as though reverberating within a cave which ultimately recedes to complete the CD.
What an unexpectedly excellent release this is. The artist deserves to be far more widely known, his sense of evolving structure and melodic composition work in areas few others explore. In common with his small group of contemporaries like Alphane Moon and Xenis Emputae Travelling Band there is more here than just the music. The artist revels in our connection with nature and sees his music as transformative in its aspirations. This is an important work that whispers its name. We implore you to explore it yourself and find your own place within it. Although never explicitly stated this is deeply pagan music, not just seeing the divine in nature, but the divine as nature.

TJON é um projecto a solo do Português Luis Couto. Esporadicamente dão-se participações de outros artistas, não só da área da música, mas de outras vertentes artísticas. Este é o seu segundo registo e foi lançado em CD-R de 3”, numa edição limitada a 21 exemplares, devidamente embalados num luxuoso pacote feito à mão. Infelizmente essa edição está esgotada. O que eu tenho em mãos é apenas um CD-R normal com a gravação dos 4 temas e ainda algumas faixas que fazem parte de diversas colectâneas. Para quem não conseguiu a edição especial, em suporte físico, este EP está disponível através da Britânica Woven Wheat Whispers, venda online em formato mp3.
Em termos líricos, este é um EP conceptual baseado na lenda do pastor e da donzela do lago, do manuscrito Gaulês do século XIII, “Meddygon Myddfa”. Em termos instrumentais, passo a descrever sucintamente. A faixa de abertura, “The longest and deepest sleep for the shephered and the maiden in the woods, near the stream”, ultrapassa os 15 minutos de duração, e é basicamente um tema ambiental com toques Folk e Industrial. Gosto mas o melhor ainda está para vir. Segue-se “Enchanting lullaby for Su, the maiden”, ainda com o toque ambiental mas agora mais centrado na Folk. Continuamos bem, mas vai melhorar. Seguem então, não uma mas duas, “pièce de résistance”, os temas “A slumber hangs upon the walls” e “The shepherd and the lake maiden”. Dark Folk que transpira um verdadeiro sentimento Lusitano, depressivo, melancólico, sonhador. Saudade. Depois de, nos últimos anos, o Fado ter perdido esse sentimento intrínseco à alma Lusitana, é bom constatar que ainda se consegue transmitir na música, mesmo que noutras áreas atípicas à cultura deste país. Esta característica é mais notória em “A slumber hangs upon the walls”, que é o momento alto do disco.
Os dois primeiros temas são muito bons, mas são muito lugar-comum da Folk / Dark Folk / Ambiental / Industrial. Mas os dois seguintes… Ah! Só por estes dois temas vale a pena a aquisição de “The Shepherd’s Tea”.

Aus Portugal stammen The Joy of Nature und wie der Name es bereits andeutet, so sind die Klänge, die sich hier auf dieser wundervoll gestalteten Single wiederfinden, sehr erdig und sehr naturverbunden auf der einen Seite, auf der anderen Seite aber auch sehr melancholisch und sehr getragen, wie es dem Naturell der portugiesischen Folklore, dem Fado, der hier marginal seinen Einfluss erkennen lässt, nun mal zu eigen ist. Die vier Stücke sind rein instrumental gehalten und basieren auf getragenen Soundscapes, durch die zuweilen die Klänge einer Akustikgitarre dringen, schwebende Klänge, die weite Räume suggerieren, die sich im Nachhall der Klänge verlieren und die von aufprallenden Wassertropfen oder sprudelnden Bächen unterstützt werden. Wer einen groben musikalischen Anhaltspunkt benötigt, der sei auf die Soundtrackarbeiten Popul Vuhs verwiesen, wobei The Joy of Nature schon ein sehr eigenes musikalisches Profil entwickelt haben, das verhältnismässig wenig mit dem Krautrock Florian Frickes gemeinsam hat. Kontakt zu Luis Couto gibt es unter: oder über
Ohne Wertung

Portugalski THE JOY OF NATURE ujal mnie swego czasu wydana w rodzimym Bunkrze plytka "The Fog That Life Is Haunted By". W oczekiwaniu na kolejne pelnowymiarowe wydwnictwo tego projektu, musze zadowolic sie krótkim, wydanym wlasnym sumptem na cd-r (w zawrotnej ilosci 21 egzemplarzy) materialem zatytulowanym "The Shepherd's Tea".
W tym miejscu wypadaloby uporzadkowac nieco dyskografie Portugalczyków. Mniej wiecej w tym samym czasie co omawiana plyta, ukazala sie siedmiocalówka o bardzo podobnym tytule "The Shepherd's Tea at 7". Omawiany przeze mnie cd-r zawiera dwa zupelnie nowe utwory oraz dwa ze wspomnianej siedmiocalówki w nowych wersjach. Tyle jesli chodzi o sprawy techniczne - przejdzmy do muzyki.
Ta wciaz jest znakomita, choc rózniaca sie nieco od "The Fog...". Tym razem Luis mniej eksperymentuje. Nie ma takiego rozrzutu stylistycznego jak na poprzednim wydawnictwie. THE JOY OF NATURE poszlo w folkowym kierunku. Syntetycznych brzmien wlasciwie juz tu nie uswiadczymy, za to dzwieki zywych instrumentów jak najbardziej. Takze wiecej tu melodii niz poprzednio - poza pierwszym utworem nie ma rozmytych ambientowych plam jak na "The Fog...". A jednak pomimo wszystkich tych róznic, charakterystyczny dla tego portugalskiego projektu klimat wciaz pozostaje ten sam. Klimat pewnego rozmarzenia, melancholii... Ma ta muzyka równiez pewnego rodzaju ilustracyjny charakter - gdy zamknie sie oczy nietrudno wyobrazic sobie inne swiaty. Momentami mocno kojarzy mi sie "The Shepherd's Tea" ze "Szklanym Sercem" Herzoga - podobny hipnotyczny nastrój, a jednoczesnie wyczuwalna silna wiez z Natura...
Swietna rzecz, doskonale rokujaca na przyszlosc.