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Ars Nova (JAP) - Across The World CD (album) cover

ACROSS THE WORLD

Ars Nova (JAP)

 

Symphonic Prog

3.47 | 7 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars An energetic document of all girl Japanese prog trio Ars Nova, `Across The World' has the band deliver a punchy and powerful live performance from 2001. For those unaware, the girls play a heavy brand of neo-classical bombastic instrumental prog, with heavy gothic and even medieval elements. Much of the band's music draws to mind haunted manors, ghostly visions and stalking terror! Main lady Keiko Kumagai dominates this live performance. The keyboard virtuoso plays with the power of Keith Emerson and the classical pomp of Rick Wakeman, but avoids the whimsical elements that sometimes let those two down. She is an aggressive player, and the album is overloaded with her huge sound.

I've had a lot of problems trying to work out exactly who the other players on this album are. From some sources the album is credited to a trio, other times to a 5-piece, with an additional keyboard player and a guitarist. I think this confusion comes from the CD being included as a bonus with a live DVD from 2010, which indeed had a 5-player lineup. To add to the confusion, the CD credits two keyboard players (Keiko and Mika), with a drummer Akiko, and no bass player! The original J- pop inspired front cover shows three members, too. I suspect there may be two keyboard players for the more complex moments. But enough guessing and confusion, best to let the music speak for itself!

After a ghostly and eerie beginning, with cold clinical programmed beats, the first three minutes of `Android Domina' is one booming intro with cold, imperial organ. Quite intimidating! Dazzling swirling synths fly all around, and about four minutes in there's a terrific moment with stomping drums and huge imposing organ. There's a brief section with female operatic vocals followed by solemn church organ. A reprise of the mechanical beats and more fiery keyboard/drum eruptions gets the concert off to a great start! `Succubus' alternates between delicate reflective and heavy aggressive pounding piano, with plenty of tasteful synth solos. It's a very uptempo piece with lots of wild energy and snappy playing, overloaded with classical themes and drama. The organ especially has such a hard thick sound on this one, very addictive. With a rising call-to-arms intro, `Horla Rising' is a heavily classical gothic piece. Strong medieval influences also feature, and the music is full of spectral tension and imminent threat. The main synth theme that first appears at 4:30 is very moving and stirring, and is reprised at several points throughout the track.

`Pairi-Daeza' contains almost joyful synth themes, constantly reprised, but also features a ghostly and sinister middle section, before a triumphant and heroic return near the end. Lovely floating and drifting synth climax over gentle programmed percussion. `Piano solo' is a nice thoughtful and moving break from all the horror and bombast! They should include more moments like this on their albums, but in extended compositions. It's an example of how subtle and low-key the band can perform, not something usually associated with them. `Fata Morgana' is a very piano heavy finale, lots of emotional and urgent playing, backed with dirty heavy organ grinding and crashing drum- work. There definitely appears to be some murmuring bass on this one too. A highlight is a sprightly drum solo in middle with wild angry synths around it, before a return of operatic vocals and ending on grand church organ.

Some listeners dislike the band for the schizophrenic nature of their arrangements, as they frequently head in so many directions, never staying with one idea for too long. I think the works performed on this album show a lot more cohesion, with many of the tracks having frequent reprises of earlier sections to make for a more complete and satisfying listen. I admire the band greatly for their endless ideas and over-the-top delivery.

Long deleted, the only way to snap up this album is to buy it in the combo DVD/CD package `Divine Night', which itself seems to be quite rare these days. It's worth tracking down, as the short but exhausting concert is full of memorable and immersive musical themes from this ferocious and passionate band.

Well worth three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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