Through their cerebral and soulful soundscapes that drench our speakers in sound, the progressive-rock project Ars Nova never leaves us disappointed, especially with their latest versatile album entitled "Mosaic."
Leaving their audience's jaws on the floor through their exquisite five-part harmonies and incredible fretwork, Ars Nova saw vast success and critical-acclaim from their debut 2018 album, 'Of the Stars the Sun and the Moon.'
Following up their debut project with a 10-track sophomore album, 'Mosaic,' Ars Nova shares the sounds of classical, metal prog-rock, blues, and country, formulated in their compelling musical vision.
The 'Mosaic' album begins with the introductory track, "Winter's an Der Nach." As we start our venture into the piece, we're met with an astonishing 5-piece acapella that gives us a similar introductory sensation to a major motion film.
Moving into the second piece, "Changing My Tune," Ars Nova begins the tune with warm acoustic guitar picking and Jim McKee's soulful stylings that sing of feeling renewed and refreshed. Giving an ode to country music through this feel-good track, we love the organic and genuine feel of each luminous instrumental and relatable lyric.
Livening our spirits with the next track, "The First Sound of Thunder," this song begins and blasts through our speakers with versatility right off the bat. Fueling the track with a gut-wrenching electric guitar, a gripping bassline, soulful piano, and hefty drum patterns, Jim McKee later makes his way in and channels rock legends of the past through his powerful vocal delivery. Ars Nova takes us into the heat through the elongated instrumentals within the next piece, "Human Being." While pushing powerful instrumentals with soulful rock elements and textured acoustic guitar melodies, Ars Nova later tells a needed story of how there is only one race, the human race, as they pay tribute to black lives worldwide who suffer from obnoxious and ignorant discrimination.
Sharing a bouncy and lively instrumental with the next piece, "Numerologie," Ars Nova takes us into a scorching rock atmosphere, offering similar unconventional bass and drum flairs to Rush's "YYZ." Switching up the sonics for the next track, "The Challenge," the piece begins with nostalgic synths that glimmer and shine alongside the upbeat drum patterns. As Tim Folkerts starts singing of his refreshed self, thanks to a new lover, we adore the warm tones and uplifting feel of his delivery, especially while the punchy rock instrumentals accompany him.
Continuing the electronic theme throughout the next track, "Scherzo," Ars Nova takes us on a blistering and exhilarating cinematic adventure through John Thomas' astonishing keyboard playing. Accompanied by Ars Nova's fiery rock instrumentals, we love the soulful sci-fi feel of this unique instrument. Slowing it down with the next piece, "All for You," Ars Nova goes back into their country roots and delivers this song with the heart and soul of country/folk-rock while singing a passionate story of devoting yourself to true love.
Channeling their classical side with the 10-minute track, "The Story of Your Life," the intro opens with cinematic piano melodies that drift through twangy electric guitars and John Thomas' powerful vocals. Fueling this track with rock, classical, country, and a hint of poetry, Ars Nova keeps us entirely engaged.
Landing on the last piece of the project, "Falling Star," Ars Nova ends the album on an energetic note through their upbeat rock instrumentals and anthemic vocals. Singing a story of taking on more than you can handle, Jim McKee and Tim Folkerts truly bring this song to life through their soulful vocals and natural charisma.
Through the entirety of Ars Nova's sophomore album, 'Mosaic,' they've kept us locked in through their placements of vastly different genres and genuine lyrical content. Find 'Mosaic' on all digital streaming platforms.
Seeing as the project contains ten thorough tracks, how long was the album in the making? When did you begin writing songs for the project?
The first recording session was in July 2018. We’d get together once a week, ~3 hours per week or ~300 hours total. Some songs had been sitting around longer than others. John composed “Winter’s an der Nach” more than thirty years ago, but it didn’t really come to life until we used it as the intro to our album. Other songs more or less came together in the studio.
Was there a specific concept or theme that you wanted to play out through the album 'Mosaic?’
Whether or not this was intentional, this album is like a sonic mosaic. There are lots of different sounds, like pieces of a puzzle, that really come together in a unified way. We certainly didn’t want to make an album where all the songs sounded alike. It’s definitely a rock album, but there are a lot of different styles that show up – rock, jazz, country, blues, classical, just to name a few -- that come together in a really cool, natural way. One band, many sounds, one sound! Music is such a positive force for all of us, and we hope that we’ve been able to transfer that positivity to our album.
Could you tell us more about your group members and how you went about the creative/recording process for 'Mosaic?’
Each of the pieces -- eight vocal and two instrumental -- has its own backstory. “Scherzo” and “Numerologie,” written by John and Lance, respectively, were presented to us more or less complete. It was a matter of learning our parts and recording them, with the composers acting as the producers for their songs. Other songs, like “The First Sound of Thunder” and “Falling Star” started as instrumentals and Jim wrote lyrics and threw in some melody ideas. During the recording process, we experimented a lot with parts and instrumentation; some things were added, some were discarded, but we eventually arrived at a result that we were happy with.
There are quite a few tracks within 'Mosaic' that would make for quite the live music experience. Which track is your group's favorite to perform or rehearse, and why?
Whatever song we happen to be playing at the time is our favorite. All of them are fun to play, and all of them present unique challenges.
How does 'Mosaic' contrast or relate to your debut album 'Of the Stars the Sun and the Moon?' Are you able to track any growth or change between the two projects?
During our initial run, from 1980 to 1985, we were playing five nights a week and having a great time doing it. We had a lot of experience playing other people’s music -- Genesis, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, and too many others to mention -- but we never had the time to think about playing our own music. Fast forward to 2017, we’re back together and working mostly on our own material, and in the back of our minds is the question, “What are we supposed to sound like?” The first album was really about feeling our way forward. Once we had finished the first album, we pretty much started right away on the second one. Everybody had a lot of ideas and was eager to get started. Everybody sings lead, somewhere! We took a lot more chances on this album -- more vocals, more instruments, and more colors. It’s more wide-ranging, more challenging to play, and really fun to listen to!