Cinema Cinema

Nefarious Industries, 2023


REVIEW BY: John Mulhouse


I first became aware of Cinema Cinema when their name started appearing on fliers alongside one of Greg Ginn’s initial Black Flag reboots. Unfortunately, when my curiosity had me venturing out to catch a gig, Cinema Cinema was unable to make it, and Ginn opened the show himself with some theremin playing. So this is my first exposure to the group, who are typically a duo comprised of Ev Gold on vocals and guitars and Paul Claro on drums and percussion. However, on this release they’ve added Thor Harris on synths, percussion, and drums. Mr. Harris is well-known for his time in Swans, during which he pummeled a variety of instruments into submission, as well as for his work with Shearwater, and a number of solo and collaborative efforts. I am quite a fan of Thor’s music and general attitude, so this seems like a good place to enter the world of Cinema Cinema, methinks.

If I’ve got my facts straight, this album, produced by the esteemed Martin Bisi at BC Studios, is the band’s seventh. They hail from Brooklyn, and if you know a little bit about a certain segment of the New York City underground, which includes the work of Martin Bisi and the aforementioned Swans, then I can add that Cinema Cinema strike me as being right in that lineage. Over the course of the record I hear echoes of Live Skull, early Sonic Youth, Helmet, and the pounding of Alphabet City-era Swans. There’s maybe even a little Big Black for Midwestern grit. But what I find myself appreciating throughout is the dynamics of Cinema Cinema, which allow plenty of breathing room for the listener. As a result, despite the aggression, there’s no sense of fatigue by the end of the record. This effect is enhanced by the pristine production.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There are eight songs on Mjölnir (I Googled it; it’s the hammer of the Norse thunder god…wait for it…Thor!). The tunes kinda fall into two camps; fairly succinct three-minute volleys or longer, more experimental workouts. The vocals aren’t always sung, but are frequently more declarative. As with many of their NYC forebears, there is plenty of simmering anger and existential dread. There was no reason to fake that in 1983, and perhaps even less reason to in 2023. That is to say that nothing here feels remotely contrived or forced.    

“This Dream” starts the album, uh, gently with a short burst of Alan Vega-esque atmospherics over what sounds a little like a glitchy deconstruction of the bassline from “Slip It In.” Then we get into “War On You,” whose buzzing guitars, rhythmic pulse, and general discontent really set the tone for what’s to come. In fact, rhythm is paramount through the entire album, which should be no surprise when you’ve got two percussionists and one of them is Thor Harris.  

“Walk Into The Ocean” is a little more ethereal, but the percussion slowly builds until it takes the song over. “Zero Sum” marries seriously powerful drumming to Phantom Of The Opera synth, slashing guitar, and electronics to create a delightfully dystopian vibe. While it’s true that you can hear many of Cinema Cinema’s Gotham-based influences, the band does blend myriad elements and modernize their approach to create something fresh, as exemplified by this song. It’s a heady blend, which requires no small amount of skill to pull off. “Info Ghetto” is another percussion showpiece, and a good reminder of how engaging an inventive, unadorned drum beat can be.

Things stretch out and get a bit conceptual on Side B, which only has three songs. “My Vision Of The Future” considers the strange and seemingly universal truth that nothing is ever enough from several different angles as snare and synth punctuate Ev Gold’s almost mocking vocal and mid-song monologue. “Riverhead” has some lovely drumming swirling around a synth riff and another anxiety-ridden lyrical narrative. When the guitar kicks in there’s a smidgen of a Chrome/Helios Creed vibe. “Voiceless Idaho” closes the record with atmospheric riffing, ominous keyboard notes, rifle shot snare and rolling toms, and… self-recrimination. It feels like a final glance into the abyss before slowly backing away. At least, for now.

While it’s true that I might not start every day with the psychological and musical pounding that Cinema Cinema deliver on Mjölnir, it bears repeating that there is actually a lot of quiet to be found in this music, increasing the psychodrama and making the aggression, when it arrives, all the more effective. If you like virtually any of the bands I’ve referenced above then it’s worth giving this newest offering from Cinema Cinema a listen. Mjölnir delivers a pleasant hammering and features the legendary powers of Thor himself.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 John Mulhouse and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nefarious Industries, and is used for informational purposes only.