Ars Nova - Android Domina

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4347.AR
Format: CD
Total Time: 100:19:00

Having seen the "Three Degrees" of prog live on a couple of occasions and having a decent amount of their recorded output, it was nevertheless a big surprise when I put their brand new Android Domina in my CD-player. The all female ELP clone this time around kicks off with a faked orgasm, as if you're witnessing the audio channel from a porn CD-ROM. The long opening title track however is the combination of five parts, which in the end sum up the many talents of Keiko Kumagai and friends. Produced once again by Keiko's "boyfriend" Numero Ueno, it once again strikes me how powerful the tiny Akiko Takahashi bangs the drums, creating an often eerie atmosphere that comes close to the era of Italian horror movies (isn't Goblin one of Keiko's favourite bands?). No wonder Ars Nova delivered a track for the Black Widow label compilation .. E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore.

Newcomer Mika Nakajima even lends her (Japanese) voice for a moment before bombastic church organ delivers an Ars Nova I have never heard before. Then both keyboard players battle it out as if we are hearing a preview of the much rumoured Wakeman-Emerson collaboration. I have to inform you that producer Numero Ueno is also involved in the making of Japanese fantastic films. If my information is correct then he designs props and stage sets for sci-fi movies, which is not at all weird if you look at the Ars Nova costumes and sleeve designs. But as Japanese people always go for the most professional result, we also have to admit that the new album sounds very detailed thus also giving a chance to quieter passages. Talking of quiet music, how about the dreamy lullaby "All Hallow's Eve," which even sounds a bit X-mas-like when you listen closely to the bells and vocals. But if you know Ars Nova then you'll know that this atmosphere simply can't last for well over seven minutes, hence the fact that it switches to a more rock idiom with classical elements intertwined. Towards the end the music even becomes overwhelming and even soundtrack like.

With the help of ex-D?ja Vu member Ken Ishita on bass, there's an extra dose of power hidden inside of "Horla Rising," an outstanding track with loads of tempo changes and rhythm breaks. As written so many times, I would also be impressed to hear real acoustic instruments make their entry here regardless of the fact that during live concerts Keiko will nevertheless reproduce these sounds on her many keyboards. As the sound is very detailed why not go for some extra guests on "pure' classical instruments? After all, drummer Akiko also plays the violin so why not opt for such a move which can also be a great asset live? The track "Mother' is clearly stated as being a special Musea bonus track, but I have to admit that it starts off in a very scary way with the false vocals of a child called Reina. Luckily that's only the intro which is followed by vocal acrobatics courtesy of Mika and Numero Ueno. The tape loops and sequencers give the song a slight commercial feel, almost in the same way like Ultravox and Tubeway Army used to approach their bank of synths. The song ends with a heartbeat rhythm. "Succubus" is the typical Ars Nova sound all over, smearing thick layers of musical drama all over the arrangement. To my ears there's also a decent amount of Bach influences to be found here. The love for Italian baroque is the main ingredient found in the closing track "Bizzarro Ballo In Maschera? with clavinet joining the strings (why no flute or viola here?). Probably one of the least aggressive and most melodic songs the band has ever composed. When military drums set in, there's like an army of mandolins in the background, blending together with the superb mellotron sounds. For a short moment there's even a slight hint of a rumba rhythm to be noticed before spacey synth sounds and harpsichord take over. The song ends with a real waltz as written by Johan Strauss. So don't be surprised when our three geisha's are dressed in lavish ballroom dresses on the sleeve of their next album. Richard Clayderman, Jan Vayne and Andr? Rieu have been warned!

Although Android Domina is one of their most accessible albums to date, Ars Nova still remains pretty difficult for most prog fans, [? -ed.] so instead of dissecting a complete album why not go for one track as a taster. The recent Musea sampler Un Voyage En Progressif Volume 6 offers an Ars Nova track from this album and at only 30 French francs it's really a steal and a great introduction to the wonderful world of Musea.

Android Domina: Part 1. Transformer - Part 2. Desire - Part 3. Hypnosis - Part 4. Instinct - Part 5. Resurrection (10:57) / All Hallow?s Eve (7:54) / Horla Rising (9:26) / Mother (7:54) / Succubus (5:34) / Bizzarro Ballo in Maschera (9:24)
[Made In Japan version substitutes "In The Cube" for "Mother"]

Keiko Kumagai - Hammond, synthesizers, and synth programming
Mika - voices, synthesizers, piano, organ
Akiko Takahashi - drums, percussions


Ken Ishita - bass (3)
Noboru Nakajima - bass (6)
Numero Uno - voice (2)

Fear And Anxiety (1992)
Transi (1994)
Goddess Of Darkness (1996)
Reu Nu Pert Em Hru / The Book of The Dead (1998)
Android Domina (2001)
Lacrimaria (EP) (2001)
Biogenesis Project (2003)
Force For The Fourth - Chrysalis (2005)
Altavoz Masterpiece Series 2006 (6CD box) (2006)
Seventh Hell (2009)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin JP

Added: November 25th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Language: english


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