Photo by Alex Bershaw

Ev Gold of Cinema Cinema talks about new improvised album, CCXMDII

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For their 2019 album CCXMD, New York-based experimental art-punk duo Cinema Cinema took a radically different approach to their music. Cousins Ev Gold (vocals/guitar) and Paul Claro (drums) teamed up with woodwind expert Matt Darriau to record an entirely improvised session. The chaotic, atmospheric results were very different from what Cinema Cinema had been known for. CCXMD only represented the first part of the session, but now they have released the rest of it as CCXMDII. In a phone interview, Gold discussed the new album.

I know that the new album comes out of the same sessions as CCXMD, but could you say how you came to release a follow-up? Was it part of the plan all along?

Well, when we went in to do the session, we went in with the intention to hopefully come away with SOMETHING; maybe a song, or a few songs potentially, that we might share with someone in the future. These sessions were the first times that we were going into the studio to record with an entirely improv based plan. Essentially, we hadn’t written anything. It was myself, my cousin Paul, the drummer, and Matt Darriau, who plays horns with us in this incarnation of the band. We went in intending to just go for it, letting the moment dictate what the sounds were like and see where we go. We definitely did not anticipate coming away with a few hours’ worth of material that we all felt kind of strongly about.

Honestly, when we first listened to the sessions, we loved them, but we weren’t sure that we’d ever release them. Because if you go back in time, just a few albums back to our earlier part of our career, it’s a lot more clear that we’re more punk-metal hybrid with experimental rock leanings. That’s definitely what albums like Man Bites Dog from 2017 or A Night at the Fights from 2014 are. So when we went in and did this session, we were excited and thrilled, but we also knew it was so far outside and so far away from anything we had done, we weren’t quite sure that we’d be able to release any of it. So we sat on it for quite a while. While we wrote a new album and while we were thinking about the future. And then we still felt we had some time to go before we’d be able to record more material. And we looked back on this material that was recorded and we realized there was way too much for one album. And we also realized that if we were going to put out one album’s worth, which was the original one, CCXMD in 2019, we’d want to get the songs that …. we just wanted to give kind of like a healthy tasting of some material that was avant-garde free jazz but had some of the intensity, at moments, that we’ve been known to have.

There’s a couple of numbers on the last album that are a little bit more sharp and staccato, some more wild sounds. But ultimately, the session was really made up of mostly ambient stuff, which came in the second part of the session. So the last album comprised kind of the beginning part of the night where we were kind of more in riff mode. And then the second part of the night, we started to go in a quieter, more ambient direction. And that was the material that we ultimately released for this one. When we were sequencing, we were kind of confused as to what would be the best way to release all of this material. And we realized it would have to be two albums, and it kind of went in the direction of the first one would be a little bit shorter and more immediate in its effect. And the second album, the sequel or the conclusion would be the longer drawn-out ending where if we’ve already got you, then we’re going to really drive it home with the pairing. So that’s a bit of the history of how the one long session yielded the two albums that we almost didn’t know if we were going to release because they’re so far outside of our usual sonic territory.

What kind of feedback did you get from the first album?

We got surprisingly really, really great feedback. We got a lot of positivity from all corners. I think that people really recognize the chances we were taking as artists and not making another album that sounds exactly the same or saying staying in safe terrain. So I think that it was looked upon as like an interesting left turn by most. We thought most people would be totally freaked out by it, but surprisingly people really accepted it as part of our repertoire. And that’s what really motivated us to want to put out the second half. Had the first half been met with more medium to indifferent views, we likely would have sat on this second half, or maybe not put it out and just called that a real big experiment. But when the first album was greeted warmly, we were really surprised. And we intended on releasing this album last year, but COVID changed the plans of everybody. We were hoping to have it out like a year after the initial release, as the first album came out in 2019 we were going to release this one in late 2020, but COVID changed plans. But we’re happy that it’s seeing the light of day now.

Given that this album came out later than you’d hoped, did you spend the extra time to do any additional production or editing work?

This album and the previous album that it’s pairing with, as we finished them at the session, what we finalized then, the edits and the mixers and the masters have stayed the same and consistent. We didn’t go back and touch anything up. Actually, we were working on a new album that we were really deep into. And during this extended break, we’ve spent a lot of time, safely, going to the recording studio or remotely working on new mixes of new material. But to concisely answer your question or rather to circle back, no, we didn’t touch this stuff at all. It stayed as it was.

What is this new material you’ve been working on like? Is it similar to CCXMD and CCXMDII or more like your earlier work?

We’re actually working on two new albums and they are definitely influenced by these releases, but they somewhat call back to the core sound of the band where there’s a lot more distortion and big drums and insanity. One of the next albums is one that we have a guest by the name of Thor Harris. He’s been in Swans and so many other great acts. So we have a collaborative album with Thor where we play in trio, and that album is mixed, mastered, finished. We’re figuring out when, where, and how to release it. And, the newest album, after 14 months of COVID induced non-practice non-band activities, we convened in the studio and we brought Matt with us.

So, in trio format, we recorded again. The same format as this album, CCXMDII. This March, we went in and we recorded a whole weekend, and we wound up doing the same thing. We went improv style and wound up coming away with definitely an album’s worth of stuff that we’re excited about, that we’re going back consistently now and overdubbing and editing. So there is fresh stuff that is afoot. We’re kind of feeling really great about the fact that we have this much stuff that we’re working on, that we feel excited about. And also that even though the pandemic obviously affected the entire world and slowed down everyone’s process, we were feeling fortunate in that we were able to have material to work on during that time to help to stay connected to our sanity. Because doing the band is really a therapeutic value. It’s been kind of rough having it be a little bit lesser in terms of activity, but we’ve been staying very active behind the scenes in terms of the studio.

Is there ever any cross-over between the different configurations of the band? Might a song start in your work with one but be deemed more appropriate for another?

I’d say the material bleeds over at times. If there’s something that I come across material-wise, that I come about on the guitar that maybe dynamically skews a bit more quiet, I might think of keeping it to the side for the trio format, because I like to provide a lot of space and room for Darriau to do his thing with his wind, for Paul to do his thing with his drums and percussion. But if I come across some more dense type riffage, that’s a little heavier leaning or more complex, I generally throw that over to the side of the regular duo Cinema Cinema configuration, because Paul and I really like to get some meaty hooks to chew in our fangs and spit out and get to the blood of the matter. So, I’d say it spills over in that when I come up with my ideas. I don’t specifically sit down and try to write ideas for one or the other. I just let the ideas flow through, but now that we’ve experimented with different configurations this much, definitely at times I can recognize, ‘Oh, this would work better if I save it for us to play as a trio with Darriau’ or, ‘Ooh, this might be better for just traditional Cinema Cinema duo myself and my cousin Paul.’

Do CCXMD and CCXMDII represent everything from that session, or is there more material from it that might see the light of day?

No, these CCXMD and CCXMDII are the entirety of that session that we recorded. It’s all the material. There’s one bonus track that. If individuals buy the new album CCXMDII, there’s a bonus track called “Hidden Tariff.” If it would’ve made the album, it would have turned the album into a bit too long for our taste at this point. We still wanted to keep the album to a certain length. So the bonus track is a long one and it’s a good one that we really like. But so, aside from that, yeah, the entire session has now seen the light of day. It has left our hard drive. It has flown off into the world. We hope that it gets a good gust of wind and lands on a lot of eardrums.

You’d said that you didn’t have any expectations with that session. But working with Darriau again, and having already put out CCXMD, did that approach change at all?

We keep it completely improvised and do not think too much. That’s definitely how we’re going to keep it when we do it with Darriau. I can say that for sure. Because as I kind of hinted at earlier, the last gig we played was January of 2020, before the pandemic shut everything down. And that was as a duo, we played a gig. And then our last band practice was that March of 2020. We couldn’t convene to play music together again, out of safety reasons for a good many months. So then this March, 2021, when we first convened for the first time to play, we went straight into the recording studio. We didn’t waste time because we’ve played together for so long. And we’re so connected. We knew that we could at least produce something of a substantial weight, and based on the struggle of not being able to get out there and make music for that long, we had a lot pent up inside us.

So we went into the studio and invited Darriau, and we surely did not take anything other than the approach of free improv. The first hour or two, we didn’t even talk; the instruments just did the talking. And then, at one point, we said, ‘Maybe we should do a short one?’ There was no kind of trying to frame what it should be or sound like. We just kept on pushing and pulling. So, we’re definitely going to keep it on the improvised side in future releases or in future moments when we share the time in the trio.

CCXMDII be purchased at: cinemacinema.bandcamp.com.

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