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25 Sep 2010

Review: The Empty Circle Part II: Trails of Blood and Fragments of the Tradition (The Joy of Nature)

The Joy of Nature
The Empty Circle Part II: Trails of Blood and Fragments of the Tradition
Ahnstern, 2009

The Empty Circle Part II: Trails of Blood and Fragments of the Tradition is the second part of The Joy of Nature’s trilogy exploring the three stages of alchemy. As the second release it therefore reflects the process of albedo, the purification that leads to piecing together the fragmentary processes that lead ultimately to the achievement of the opus.

For this release The Joy of Nature have delved deep into their Portuguese and European roots to create music far more folk-acoustic in nature, with heavy lashings of percussion, things with strings, and some very strong folk-style vocal performances.

Plunging into the ancestral and Perennial Philosophical forces evoked by ethnic musical tradition (and fusing these with neofolk and sometime-electric sensibilities), Trails of Blood and Fragments of the Tradition is much more physical and definite than the masterfully ephemeral first release in the series (Swirling Lands of Disquiet and Catharsis).

Sensual, playful, martial, and always threaded with warm blooded life, this release retains the atmospheric horizons that are The Joy of Nature’s trademark, but explores them in much more concrete song structures than is the band’s norm. Catchy melodies and hooks carry the day, making this release very accessible, although at any moment it can and does digress into other worlds of texture or space.

While there remains a dark undercurrent to the release as a whole (the alchemical process tends to involve cycling between albedo and nigredo [the first stage] repeatedly before the final opus is won) this album has a merry countenance that is rooted in the life-affirming spirit of traditional European musical culture.

Earthy, richly layered, alternately dreamy and visceral, Trails of Blood and Fragments of the Tradition is a noble tribute to The Joy of Nature’s musical forebears, and a true celebration of life. A marvellous continuation of the trilogy of The Empty Circle, and a release which leaves me very excited to hear the concluding album of the series…

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