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Instrumental group has big year planned in 2020

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FARMINGTON — When it comes to describing his band's new recording, OJ Kaminky — bassist for the Farmington instrumental rock band Cinematica — already has his sound bite ready, even though the disc won't be released until summer.

"We tell people it's our 'Dark Side of the Moon,'" Kaminky said, referring to the groundbreaking 1973 effort by Pink Floyd that gave new meaning to the term "concept album." That recording's exploration of complex, disparate themes and use of experimental recording techniques helped it gain landmark status in the world of popular music, helping it sound fresh and alive even today, nearly 50 years after its release.

Kaminky isn't comparing Cinematica's work to that of Pink Floyd, but his words are indicative of the ambition his group his feeling as it plots the release of "The Jaguar Priestess," its follow-up to its 2018 debut recording, "Ultraviolet Waterfall." Many of the songs on the new disc and its cover art will be presented when the band performs a New Year's Eve show at the Lauter Haus Brewing Co.

Like "Ultraviolet Waterfall," "The Jaguar Priestess" was recorded at the Albuquerque studio of veteran producer Kenny Riley. And though the two recordings are closely linked thematically, the band — which also features guitarist Brandon Mike and drummer Eddie Jacquez — considers the new disc a major step forward.

"We had this bold idea to put out a three-part trilogy," Jacquez said, explaining the career plan that Cinematica has developed in the time since the release of "Ultraviolet Waterfall."

He said "The Jaguar Priestess" has become the middle entry in that trilogy, with a third and final disc planned for a few years down the line to complete the series. Jacquez explained that the priestess referenced in the album's title is a character who emerged from the band's debut recording, with the band characterizing her as the seer and magician of the Ultraviolet Waterfall.

Cinematica was encouraged to begin thinking in grander terms by Riley, who delivered a pep talk to the trio long before the recording sessions for "The Jaguar Priestess" began. Riley said when he approached Kaminky, Mike and Jacquez in 2017 and indicated he was interested in working with them, he understood that he essentially was dealing with a garage band that was still was developing an identity.

But by the time the group was ready to record its sophomore disc earlier this year, Riley let the member of the band know he expected more from them this time — a lot more.

"He was confident our songwriting and skill level had progressed to a higher level," Jacquez said, later adding that he believes Riley also sees in the group a hunger and a willingness to work hard.

"He's probably the best thing that ever happened to us," Jacquez said of Riley's impact on the band.

The members of Cinematica took Riley's words to heart. They had been rehearsing the material intended for "The Jaguar Priestess" for months, but before going into the studio, they huddled once more and issued a challenge to themselves. They decided to strip down the new songs measure by measure and re-examine them, pledging to take a critical look at every part and jettison or replace any element that was deemed unnecessary or a poor fit.

Riley also commanded enough respect in the control room to get the members of Cinematica to try some new techniques once their sessions began, including guitar loops. He pointed out that since the group doesn't have a vocalist, the lead guitar fills that role, and the guitar parts are largely responsible for telling the story of each tune.

"He has a special quality of getting us to let go of some of the control and letting somebody (organize) your sound in a different way," Jacquez said.

Mike, the band's guitarist, describes himself as a perfectionist, and he acknowledged that recording the new material in ways that sometimes didn't allow him his customary weeks of careful honing was "torturous." He was encouraged to dissect and explore all aspects of his playing, Mike said, and by the end of the sessions, he was exhausted.

But what Cinematica emerged from the studio with is a disc that far surpasses its earlier work, according to its members, and meets the terms of that aforementioned challenge.

"We all knew going into this that it was our chance to show where we are in 2020 — and certainly not where we were in 2017," Jacquez said. " … He got the best out of us."

"The Jaguar Priestess" is a concept album in every sense of the word. It's a progression of songs bound around a story, not just a collection of Cinematica's latest tunes. Kaminky proudly noted it even features a distinct introduction and conclusion, elements that help tie a knot around the package. Stylistically, it reflects the group's devotion to hard rock, but it also incorporates elements of classic rock, psychedelia, post-modern rock and jazz.

Even the artwork for "The Jaguar Priestess" reflects the band's higher standards. Jacquez persuaded his friend Drew Roulette, bassist for the San Francisco rock quartet Dredg and an accomplished artist, to create the cover art, and a large reproduction of the piece will be unveiled at next week's show.

But fans of the band will need to be patient to hear "The Jaguar Priestess" in its entirety. Plans call for releasing one single a month in March, April and May, with the release of a music video scheduled in June. The full recording will be released in July.

"We need to ride this album into 2021," Jacquez said, explaining that measured rollout.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Dec. 31 for the band's New Year's Eve show at Lauter Haus, 1806 E. 20th St. in Farmington. Cover is $5. Call 505-326-2337.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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