Ars Nova (January 1997)

Date of Performance: January 12, 1997
Venue: Theatre Dunois, Bercy, Paris, FR

Ars Nova 1997 (l to r: Kyoko Kanazawa, Keiko Kumagai, and Akiko Takahashi; photo courtesy J Bollenberg) A stone's throw from the over-famous event hall in Bercy, Paris, is a small theater called "Theatre Dunois." It's a cozy little thing with incredible acoustics! Unfortunately the architect made some dreadful errors, meaning that every concert has to be finished by 10:30 PM as all of the neighbours complain of the noise!

Sunday 12th January '97 was no different as only a hundred or so prog-lovers showed up for an evening of instrumental complex music starring Drama from France and Ars Nova from Japan, both artists from the extensive Musea catalogue.

Drama are a five-piece from Rouen, France based around the incredible skills of guitar player Eric Azhar. Compared to some of their contemporaries, the band offers an elaborated sound due to the inclusion of a percussionist. Apart from a vast array of acoustic instruments Jean-Marc Leclerc uses a lot of interesting sounds from his Orla KX750 keyboard. At times this offers some nice duels between percussion and drums in the same vein as Collins and Thompson in Genesis. Unfortunately sometimes they even go as far as copying parts of "Los Endos," which must have been their major inspiration here! I must say I was also very impressed with the bass playing of Jean Francois Duboc who's a deadringer for Chris Squire. "Mascarade," a track from the debut albumDrama was delivered in a splendidly dramatic way whilst the sound-mix of their performance was ace all around. Two new songs were played during their short set. In "La Magna Carta," at the end of the track, Richard Langlois produced some nice militaristic bagpipe tones from his keyboards, contrasting very well with the dreamy string section. Another new song was produced with Big Bang (a nice thank you from the band to the French prog-zine of the same name!) in which heavy drum sounds intertwine with eastern patterns to end with some hypnotic congas. Throughout the entire set I was impressed with the technical talent of each of the five individual players and the way they blend their skills to create something unique.

And there they were: our three Japanese girls, so tiny they'd easily fit in the glove compartment of your car. Although they look like they've just left Legoland, they play the most outrageous, adult, and complex music. Akiko Takahashi (photo: (c) Norio Kajiki) All dressed up in an original kimono, drummer Akiko Takahashi took to the stage. To underline her roots she carried a lampion in one hand whilst waving a fan in the other: "fan-tastic!" And so was the music that Ars Nova chose from their albums Fear And Anxiety, Transi and Goddess Of Darkness [they have since released The Book Of The Dead]. Kyoko Kanazawa (photo: (c) Norio Kajiki) Although not on the same level as say Dream Theater's John Myung, bass player Kyoko Kanazawa proved to be more than just a pretty face. She brought her own Rickenbacker bass with her from Japan, as otherwise it's difficult to obtain the sound she really wants. Certain fretless passages were really breathtaking! In between the tracks: a long silence as Kyoko tried to read some French words from the piece of paper which tour organiser Bertrand Pourcheron had quickly written for her. "Merci beaucoup" was spread over three syllables which took about ten minutes! But this naive behaviour perfectly contrasted with the adult contents of their complex ELP-flavoured music!

Halfway through the set producer Numero Ueno took to the stage. Not only is he the owner of Made In Japan records, he's also producer for bands such as Gerard, Magdalena, Outer Limits, Midas, Vermillion Sands, etc... In fact Ueno is a designer for theatre and film, and he creates his own "monsters," which are used in the fantastic Japanese film [industry]. Ueno also designs most of the sleeve designs for his artists. Tonight, the band and Ueno had brought a limited number of 3D sleeves with them for their Goddess Of Darkness album, again designed by Ueno! However, during the concert Ueno, started a small quiz consisting of about four questions. For each of the questions he had magnificent prizes such as several Japanese import CDs from his own label, a unique belt buckle he made himself, a promo package containing some rare Outer Limits stuff and a toy piano: the Japanese father Christmas was welcomed with open arms. And so was the second set of Ars Nova with tracks like "Dance Macabre," "Chase" and "Nova." Keiko Kumigai (photo: (c) Norio Kajiki)Armed with a Prophet 600, M1 Korg, Hammond XB-2 + Lesley and Korg 01/W Keiko Kumagai made Rick Wakeman's cape look anything but original! Dressed in pink boxer shorts, white pantyhose and glittering socks she made the most difficult sections look dead easy. Meanwhile drummer Akiko had switched to boxer shorts with braces and psychedelic stockings, whilst Kyoko looked stunning in her black lacquered shorts, white stockings, and boots from the Gary Glitter era. Whilst they looked like they just left a teenage party they worked their way through the most incredible music with an impossible ease.

A long time ago we said that progrock was in urgent need of sex and humor. With Ars Nova you get both with an added bonus of some excellent music thrown in for good measure. Wonderful!

[Since this article was first written, Kyoko Kanazawa left Ars Nova; the newest member of the band is Mika, who joined in 1999. They were expected to be working on a new album through this June, but no additional info is available on this as of this writing {also, I should note that wefirst published it in 2000 even though it dates from 1997} - ed.]

Ars Nova (l to r: Akiko, Keiko, Kyoko)
Ars Nova (l to r: Akiko, Keiko and Kyoko)

Ars Nova with Numero Ueno and John 'Bo Bo' Bollenberg; photo courtesy J Bollenberg
Ars Nova with Numero Ueno and
John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg (courtesy J Bollenberg)

Links: Musea

photo: © John "Bobo" Bollenberg (1, 6); © Norio Kajiki (2, 3, 4)

Added: June 8th 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Language: english

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