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ARS NOVA and The Anthony Clayton
and Siemy Di Group - The Underworld, Camden,London 28 March 2004

Well I went along to see the Japanese prog trio Ars Nova on Sunday night in Camden, having never even heard a single song from them. The descriptions that I had read of their music likened it very much to the sort of thing that a trio like Emerson, Lake and Palmer might have produced. In addition, gig reviews that I'd read, mentioned that at least for part of their set, the females in the group dressed up in leather and kinky S&M-style gear. That was enough for me to invest 6 in a ticket, but unfortunately there weren't many other London residents who thought the same and the audience during their set consisted of about 35 people including the promoter, bar staff and support band.

Support came from the South-East London-based 4-piece `Anthony Clayton and Siemy Di Group', who I understand also supported Ars Nova the night before at the Classic Rock Society gig in Rotherham. Their set consisted of 7 or 8 instrumental tunes but their brand of Progressive Fusion was really not my cup of tea and they didn't manage to draw me away from the bar.

Originally an all-female group, Ars Nova are a trio made up of keyboards, bass and drums though they now have a male drummer. Mastermind and keyboard player Keiko Kumagai was using the keyboard rig of Gonzalo Carrera (from the support band) and unfortunately she seemed to have problems from the beginning in selecting the sounds that she wanted, so the gig got off to an uneasy start. Together with the new bassist, whose name I didn't catch, Keiko chose to wear a kimono rather than the bondage gear, which was disappointing but the music certainly wasn't.

For a big ELP fan like myself, it was a real pleasure to hear the great mix of modern and retro sounds that Keiko coaxed from the keyboards, while the drummer, appropriately nicknamed 'The Beast', pounded the hell out of the drum kit throughout the set. The bassist, who seemed fairly shy and nervous started rather shakily, grew much more relaxed as the set progressed and laid down a heavy beat, while also demonstrating some nifty finger work.

After the first couple of tunes Keiko introduced the band and declared how happy she was to be playing in London (though she must have been disappointed by the turnout). It seemed to take them a couple of songs to really get going but by the end of the hour plus long set, they were really playing well. I must admit that my enjoyment was tempered somewhat by my lack of familiarity with their music and the fact that it was all instrumental, but I'll certainly give them another try, should they ever return to these parts.

Review: Charlie Farrell

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