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Ars Nova (JAP) - Transi CD (album) cover


Ars Nova (JAP)


Symphonic Prog

3.13 | 27 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars It's not fair to instantly dismiss instrumental Japanese prog group Ars Nova as being lazy or unimaginative Emerson, Lake and Palmer clones, even if the all-female trio are heavily influenced by the legendary band as a starting point. Instead, they marry the grand bluster of that classic Seventies act to a heavier and darker gothic sound, and their second album, 1994's `Transi', in addition to being perhaps their most grandiose and complex work overall, weaves in plenty of demented and noisily schizophrenic touches as well!

Opening introduction `Phantom' sounds like the love-child of horror director/composer John Carpenter and legendary Italian soundtrack doomsters Goblin with its ghostly electric piano tip-toes and approaching infernal majesty. It leads directly into the punchy little `Chase', unsurprisingly attacking and up-tempo, and full of Keiko Kumagai's frantic races of buzzsaw-like electronics, dizzying Moog spins and staccato piano stabs, Akiko Takahashi's bashing relentless drums and Kyoko Kanazawa's stalking grumbling bass.

From there on, `Transi' and all the lengthier epic pieces bring plenty of classical pomp and gothic flair, coming together to resemble a gloriously over-the-top spectral pantomime. With everything from fanfare church organs rising around whipping tension and echoing ambience, snaking icy Mellotron slivers, searing Hammond blasts, upfront coursing bass spasms and pounding drum tantrums, the album takes no prisoners. Breathless and relentless, victorious and grandiose, kitsch and histrionic...and there's a devilish mischievousness creeping out of every pore that will surely have Old Nick licking his lips with malevolent glee!

`Dance Macabre' incorporates some exotic Arabian flavours here and there, and `Sahara 2301' houses reprising Moog themes that are both heroic and romantic in a proud Rick Wakeman-esque manner. The near-thirteen minute closer `Nova' is overloaded with sumptuous sweeping flourishes but also moves through everything from avant-garde jazzy piano noodling ala early Pink Floyd, a little bit of swooning Vangelis-like prettiness and an abundance of deliciously scratchy organ violations and hellish Mellotron fire, and an unexpected subdued ambient outro will make you wish Ars Nova explored that area a little more.

Yes, this one can be a little overwhelming and exhausting in the way it darts about in constant multiple directions most of the time (some listeners will likely find that particular quality aggravating), it sure could do with a few more quieter breaks to allow the listener to catch their breath, and you will likely wish the band would calmly develop a few more stronger reprising themes here and there. But the technical virtuosity, extravagant arrangements and inspired energy on display is infectious and hard not to be impressed by, and `Transi' remains a blurring kaleidoscope of musical colour for symphonic-prog lovers.

Three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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