Experimental art/punk outfit Cinema Cinema return 1 November with their latest album, CCXMD via Nefarious Industries. Cousins Ev Gold (vocals/guitar) and Paul Claro (drums) team with woodwind master/saxophonist Matt Darriau (Grammy award-winning world-music ensemble The Klezmatics) to create a sweeping release that is undoubtedly punk in spirit while also including doses of ambient and free jazz. If the New York City music scene has long been about marrying the raw aggression of frustrations of urban life with the heady, intellectual experiments of the avant-garde, Cinema Cinema prove themselves proud torchbearers on this latest sojourn.
Gold, speaking from his Brooklyn home, explains that the LP’s origins can be traced to 2013 when he and Claro tapped Darriau to help them explore some of their more experimental tendencies.
“The one rule,” Gold says, “was that we couldn’t ever plan what we were going to play. We looked at it more the way jazz musicians would.”
The trio would turn up for casual gigs with the results inspiring them to give the music life home on a permanent record.
“We wanted to go into the studio but knew that it might not result in a proper Cinema Cinema album,” recalls Gold.
The studio sessions mirrored their live performances: Nothing was written beforehand. “The only way to do improv is to play a lot together and get comfortable with listening to each other,” he notes. “You have a sense of who is holding the music together at any moment.”
Around the time of the sessions, Gold had discovered the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra, featuring guitar wunderkind John McLaughlin, who led a cast of characters that included Billy Cobham, Jerry Goodman and Jan Hammer to unbelievable jazz fusion heights via albums such as The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire.
As virtually any musician who has heard those recordings can attest, the results were DNA-shifting. “It seemed like each musician had a way of holding the hot potato,” Gold observes. “The music would cook, and one time it was the bass player, the next it was the drummer, then the violin. Paul and I can read each other so well. It’s like a two-headed monster, and we were finding new things in that direction with Darriau.”
What was planned as a one-hour session for which the stakes were not particularly high yielded a great deal of music, enough, Gold says, to potentially unveil a sequel to the current platter. Gold adds, “We labored over whether it should be a Cinema Cinema album, but it falls under the umbrella of what we do when we play. Improvisation is a huge part of what we do live, and I would say it encompasses about a quarter of every show we’ve done.”
(Astute historians and fans will note that Darriau’s playing appeared on the 2017 Cinema Cinema no-holds-barred set Man Bites Dog, which came after the studio time reflected on CCXMD. Gold recalls that those sessions also yielded unexpected results. “We thought he might guest on one song, but he ended up on three pieces. His playing started to color in what we do with a different feel.”)
From the furious overture “Collective Outpoint” to the brooding “Cyclops” to the post-rock-meets-hard bop “Revealed”, Cinema Cinema show themselves as a brooding, multi-faceted monster that is relentless in its pursuit of musical mastery. The epic “Ode to a Gowanus Flower”, which clocks in at over 13 minutes, serves as a culmination of all that Gold, Claro, and Darriau found on their journey toward musical truth.
“Matt is like a human gauze over the animal that is Cinema Cinema,” Gold says. “He brings a vast bag of tricks with him.”