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Ars Nova (JAP)

Symphonic Prog

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Ars Nova (JAP) Fear & Anxiety album cover
2.97 | 41 ratings | 8 reviews | 8% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1992

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Dark Clouds (1:43)
2. [dziha:d] (5:52)
3. House of Ben (7:54)
4. Prominence (6:20)
5. Fata Morgana: part 1 (8:30)
6. Fata Morgana: part 2 (0:58)

Total time: 31:35

Bonus track on 1998 & 2006 reissues:
7. Nova (live *) (10:46)

Extra bonus track on 2006 reissue:
8. Transi (live *) (8:18)

* Recorded at Progday, Chapel Hill, NC, USA, 1996

Line-up / Musicians

- Keiko Kumagai / keyboards, Hammond, synths (MiniMoog, Prophet 600, Poly 6, M1, DW-6000, Matrix-1000, U-220, S-550, K1000), composer
- Kyoko Saito / bass, bass synth, electronics
- Yumiko Saito / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Numero Ueno with Norio Kajiki (photo)

CD Made In Japan Records ‎- MCD-2923 (1992, Japan)
CD AMP Records ‎- AMP-CD038 (1998, UK) With a bonus Live track, new cover
CD Altavoz ‎- ALT-1 (2006, Japan) Remastered with 2 bonus Live tracks, new cover

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ARS NOVA (JAP) Fear & Anxiety ratings distribution

(41 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(8%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (50%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

ARS NOVA (JAP) Fear & Anxiety reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by richardh
3 stars Japanese all girl band influenced by ELP.It's well done and passes the time well enough.Keiko Kumagai shows her ability on keyboards and is a ably supported by a strong rythym section.The music is all instrumental and original enough to stand up in it's own right.I can't go overboard with praise though as I think the lack of variety and tendancy to ramble can get a bit boring after a while.
Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Being a great fan from ELP, I guess it is normal that I also appreciate Ars Nova (there are amazingly a few more Japanese bands that sound like them - ELP I mean). This is not my prefered Ars Nova album but is still quite interesting for die hard fans. Short intro to start the album : "Dark Clouds" and then it really begins. If you do not look at the cover and just listen ... Try to remember what was all about back to 35 years ago (this review is written in November 2006) it is really a trip back to ancient times. "Jihad" is a powerful number with rythm changes and a very good drumming play. Next comes "House of Ben" which starts in a very scary way (someone seems to die - literally - during the intro but do not worry, this part only lasts for 50 sec.!). It is a complex track with several parts, but the link between them is not obvious and to me it sounds more like small pieces put together that really a one & only number. "Prominence" is jazzy and light : not my cup of tea. "Fata Morgana" is the longest track and closes the album. The same feeling prevails here : good musicianship but little great moments. Overall, an album for completionist : 2 stars. They will do a lot better later on.
Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It's hard to believe that three girls can play such kind of music.And the greatest thing of all is that they seem to be virtuosos of their instruments.Someone could say that this album is a tribute to the keyboard driven prog rock of ELP.It contains a lot of hammond organ plays and keyboard/synthesizer lines giving us a taste of what these girls can do.The album is only instrumental and that's the only negative thing,cause at times they sound a little bit monotonous.Generally speaking,a very promising first effort!
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The debut album by Japanese lady trio seemed like an EP, actually, because by the time it was released the industry got used to have album with longer duration than an LP could handle. If it was 1970, I could understand it because at that time Gentle Giant and some other classic bands made albums with such short duration. Anyway, that's what I think. As far as this band's concern, this could be their first test the water attempt with the kind of music that some people reckoned that the influence of ELP was very dominant. I don't think it applies fully in this debut album. Yes, the band comprised of three members but it does not mean they played something like Emerson Lake and Palmer. In some segments, probably yes but not all. I can see the influence of Rick Wakeman as well.

It's basically Keiko Kumagai who wrote and composed the pieces in the album and she dominates the music in this album while Kyoko Kanazawa (bass) and Akiko Takahashi (drums ) provide rhythm section. The album kicks off with an ambient Dark Clouds followed by an upbeat and a bit complex composition [dgiha:d]. The music is quite entertaining and energetic with Keiko deliver her layers of keyboard sounds nicely. Akiko's drumwork is quite dynamic as well. House of Ben is probably the one that has great influence by ELP especially on music style, even though it's less complex than typical ELP music. The keyboard solo is stunning although it sounds simple. The inventive breaks through piano sounds are also something that create pleasant listening.

Prominence delivers more aggressive music in terms of tempo and inventive keyboard work as well as flows and changes in styles. Again, you can find ELP influence, performed in simpler chords and notes. You may compare this with Jurgen Fritz of Triumvirat as well. The concluding track Fata Morgana part 1 and 2 make the album being closed in uplifting mood especially with excellent keyboard solo. The song starts mellow with piano work followed by interesting solo which brings the music in excellent flow. I can see the contribution of Kyoko in providing bass lines throughout the song.

As a debut album, this is a good album by the band in their attempt to gauge the market. It's recommended for those who enjoy keyboard-based progressive music, without vocal. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ars Nova is often Accussed of being an ELP clone band. Even though Ars Novaīs most significant influence clearly is ELP I think I hear other influences too that help Ars Nova to shape their own sound.

The music is heavily rooted in the seventies symphonic scene, even though it is mostly more modern sounding keyboards being used. UK is abigg influence in the keyboard sound department. The album is instrumental and the themes played by the keybord are mainly classical inspired. Thus the ELP clone rumours.

The musicians are competent and of course, as this is heavily dominated by keyboard, the keyboardist Keiko Kumagai stands out in the soundscape as he is the most spectacular one. The rythm section is also very good though.

I enjoy the album very much even though itīs not the kind of music I will listen to every day. 3 stars from me to Fear & Anxiety.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars Not an EL&P clone. Of course when a lineup is made of keyboards, drums and bass it's easy to make this comparison. Instead of ELP, I think they are closer to bands like Niacin (same kind of trio). This debut album has of course some contact points with ELP but no more than a generic influence of classical music. A difference respect to ELP is that Keith Emerson is more influenced by moderrn authors like Stravinskij and in some way Gershwin and Copland. Ars Nova are more "european" in this sense.

The album is good and well played. In Particular, House of Ben, the 3rd track has good moments and varies from a baroque organ, more "a la Wakeman", to jazzy accents in the Niacin style. The only track really close to the ELP style is Prominence, but also this is less ELP influenced than some more acclaimed artists like Par Lindh Project. I also want to remind that many of the bands of the Eastern Europe were strongly influenced by ELP and have never been considered clones, also because they are excellent bands. I mean the Slovakian Collegium Musicum and the Hungarian After Crying.

"Fata Morgana" is a gothic track that could be the soundtrack of a horror b-movie like some good RPI bands, and Emerson himself did in the 70s for the Italian cinema. The cymbal sound that drives the first section of this track reminds to Keith Emerson's "La Chiesa" or to Goblin's "Profondo Rosso". The second of the two is a sort of masterpiece of the genre and Fata Morgana doesn't have anything less, apart a bit more of psychedelia. It doesn't have the orchestral accent typical of ELP in "Works" and could be easily classified into RPI, not only for the Italian title. What lacks is maybe the continuity, because the transitions between the different parts are not always "soft" and at the end it's more like a patchworks of short pieces (like a b-movie horror sountrack can be expected to be).

It's a promising album from a promising group, not enough mature to have four stars, but good enough for 3.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars `Fear and Anxiety' is the 1992 debut for Japanese all female instrumental band Ars Nova, led by virtuoso keyboard player Keiko Kumagai. Also comprised of Kyoko Kanazawa on bass and Akiko Takahashi on drums, although the band has been through a number of slight line-up changes over the years, including incorporating vocalists (as well as male members!) later on, it's this core trio version that is the most highly regarded by followers of the band. An exhausting, frantic take on symphonic prog, the band also incorporates heavy classical and gothic elements, as well as a surprising amount of the darker Italian Prog/R.P.I traits.

Somber opener `Dark Clouds' recalls RPI legends Antonius Rex and Jacula, a brief introduction built around stark and dank piano notes over rising imperial synths. The oddly titled `[dziha:d]' takes off instantly, a driving up-tempo beat surging the relentless bass ever onwards. The template for the album is set right away, with intimidating church organ, Hammond, Mellotron, whirring Moog and the most sweeping grand piano offering lavish themes. There's symphonic movements, fanfare pomp, and even just a dash of brief regal Genesis flavour as the piece grows more dangerous and deranged as it progresses. The opening of `House of Ben' again calls to mind the Antonio Bartoccetti projects, an ambient passage of eerie voices, scary sound effects and a generally chilly mood. A searing scratchy ancient flavoured Mellotron theme and spectral piano dance in eachothers arms in this ghostly ballroom waltz with a booming stabbing crescendo. Fans of Italian horror soundtrack band Goblin will find an almost cinematic quality here.

Although parts of `Prominence' are modeled very much on Emerson, Lake and Palmer due to it's racing beat and victorious synth themes, there's also plenty of jazzy and playful soloing from all the girls. The frequently piano driven two-part finale `Fata Morgana' sees the band completely unleash. A wicked, gleeful malevolence pirouettes around attacking smashing bass, destructive drumming and ballistic break-neck synth soloing, the band dashing through a range of tempos and direction changes before ending on a beautiful piano solo, filled with an achingly beautiful loneliness.

Despite running a rather brief 31 minutes (although a recent mini LP release adds two extra live tracks as a bonus), the band rarely slows down for any quieter or more sedate moments, so the shorter length is probably welcome. But although Ars Nova would go on to make superior albums with a richer production sound (`Goddess of Darkness' and `Book of the Dead' instantly come to mind), this album gets the band off to a successful and dynamic start, and lovers of dark gothic music, aggressive keyboard-driven symphonic progressive music and the gloomier, more classical inspired RPI should investigate this talented band and addictive album.

Three stars.

Latest members reviews

3 stars When I first saw the photos of this trio of ladies I was stunned, it seems that this girls have gained quite a reputation in the prog world only by those photos. But have no doubt music is as freaky and crazy as those photos. This first album is a base for their aggressive instrumental style and ... (read more)

Report this review (#119170) | Posted by Komodo dragon | Saturday, April 21, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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