The fifth and final studio album from French producers Phillippe Zdar and Hubert Blanc-Francard (better known as Boom Bass) continues the duo’s tradition of sunny, bombastic house that helped define the French Touch sound in the ‘90s. Released just two days after Zdar fell to his death from a building in Paris on June 19th of this year, Dreems is perhaps clouded by the influential producer’s untimely passing. But over twelve expertly-interwoven tracks, Cassius have created an arresting summer soundtrack that also happens to be their best album in years. Featuring guest spots from Mike D, John Gourley (Portugal. The Man), Luke Jenner of The Rapture, and French pop singer Owlle—among others—Dreems feels like the same kind of collab-heavy, late-career statement Daft Punk achieved with Random Access Memories (albeit without the Pharrell Williams-led mega smash hit). The production is, unsurprisingly, fantastic; Zdar won a Grammy in 2010 for producing Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the fourth studio album from French indie pop group Phoenix. Real instruments, rather than software equivalents, give tracks like “Summer” and “Chuffed” a rich sense of atmosphere. In its finest moments, Dreems brings the funk on par with Cassius’ best work. —Nick Pope 


Jambinai’s recent SXSW sets are the only shows I can remember bringing me to tears. The band’s emotionally charged mixture of post-rock, metal, and traditional Korean music continues to flourish on their third album ONDA. Encompassing opener “Sawtooth” begins with the quiet, soothing hum of traditional Korean instruments before relinquishing its tranquility for distorted guitars and intense drums. The South Korean band approaches heavy, abrasive music with the same refinement that it approaches their country’s rich musical traditions. Throughout this album, these contrasting elements become one harmonious entity that is completely inseparable. Even during their heaviest moments, traditional instruments like haegum and geomungo shine forth as prominent, expressive elements of Jambinai’s sound. The band particularly flourishes on extended cuts that allow for entrancing build-ups. “In The Woods” is a visceral composition (at 13 minutes long) that takes listeners on a journey, slowly expanding upon repetitive elements until they overtake the senses. Jambinai’s distinct sound earned them an elaborate performance at last year’s Winter Olympic Games closing ceremony in South Korea. With K-Pop’s recent grip on America’s youth, Jambinai’s mixture of both traditional sounds and modern heaviness offers a refreshing alternative glimpse into South Korea’s diverse music. —William Archambeault 


Korgy & Bass is a Portland-based beat-making duo. Barra Brown plays drums, and Alex Meltzer adds analog synths and digital samples and effects. It’s a simple but effective formula, and despite the group’s corny name, their music is actually pretty good. On Remote, they mix in Portland-NOLA transplant trumpeter Cyrus Nabipoor (Noruz, Doombalaya, Sexual Thunder), who takes their sound to another plane altogether. As its title suggests, Remote was created in two different cities, with Nabipoor sending the trumpet stems he recorded in New Orleans to his beatsmith friends in Portland. In his own projects, Nabipoor has already experimented heavily with trumpet effects, but Brown and Meltzer affect the sound of his horn even further on this album. It flits in and out of perceptibility, becoming part of their post-industrial soundscapes. Basslines from fellow Portlandians Milo Fultz and Sam Arnold underscore the album’s funkier moments, but Remote is at its best when it goes fully abstract, pushing Nabipoor’s trumpet to its strangest reaches, in stark juxtaposition with the duo’s sleek, synthesized electronica. Raphael Helfand 


Madonna’s 14th studio album is also her ninth #1 album, according to Billboard. This strong ranking serves to remind us that those numbers refer to album sales and not necessarily quality. Coming from a woman who has been known as an innovator of the pop/dance genre throughout her career, this effort proves to be surprisingly dull and generic. Of the 15 tracks on the deluxe version of the album, there are only three enjoyable songs that actually stand out (“Dark Ballet,” “God Control,” and “Killers Who Are Partying”) and just two that resemble the Madonna her fans have come to know and love throughout the years (“Extreme Occident” and “I Don’t Search I Find”). Beyond that, it’s a slew of repetitious, Latin pop-inspired dance numbers with forgettable beats and heavy doses of autotune. Some of these songs sound like the same mindlessly regurgitated R&B numbers that any interchangeable pop-star-of-the-moment could easily spew forth—far below par for an artist of Madonna’s magnitude. Meanwhile, “Dark Ballet” has a few disjointed transitions, but also features some incredible piano work and a psychedelic interlude. “God Control” delivers infectiously groovy disco behind fun rap breaks. Also listen for the impressive Spanish guitar work featured in “Killers…” Overall, Madame X is a socially-conscious, politically-charged mish-mash that primarily delivers boredom. —Jenn Attaway 


Mannequin Pussy is a more nuanced band than its name suggests. The group’s sound is an uneven mix of punk, hard rock, shoegaze, and bedroom pop, all jammed together and shaken up. The Philadelphia four-piece, fronted by singer/guitarist Marisa Dabice, makes quick, thrashing tracks that switch styles compulsively. Their first album, Gypsy Pervert, was choppy and combustible. On 2016’s Romantic, they pulled their moving parts together more gracefully. Their third release, Patience, is their loudest statement yet. Alternately caustic and vulnerable, Dabice parses out breakups, makeups, and drunk, late night calls. Her voice has excellent range, and founding member Athanasios Paul’s guitar is equally versatile, strumming gently during tender moments, screeching and wailing when things heat up. The band gels best at its loudest, like on standout “Cream,” when Dabice repeatedly shouts, “I was standing in the gates of my hell” over gnashing power chords and rolling drums, courtesy of Kaleen Reading. Colins Rey Regisford’s bass is the most understated element in the mix, but it’s the glue that holds the puzzle together. At ten tracks, only three of which are over three minutes long, Patience is a quick listen, but still a potent one. —Raphael Helfand 


Consisting of nine songs all less than three minutes long (and most under two), Psience is a charming piece of new wave nostalgia that never lingers long enough on one particular idea to lose momentum. Featuring members of Trampoline Team, Buck Biloxi, and Thee Tsunamis, the band is something of a local supergroup, making upbeat post-punk akin to Devo or Suburban Lawns. On their self-titled debut, the band feels confidant, loose, and unfussy. Sure, there may be an extra syllable forced into a line here and there, or the occasional rushed note, but to fixate on such minutiae would be to miss the point (and the fun). Some of the album’s subject matter feels straight out of the Reagan era, such as the consumerist-critique “HCL,” the anti-nuclear “Atomic Clock,” or “Test Tube Babes.” Other songs are very au courant, like album highlight “H20,” which warns, “don’t drink the water, the pipes are all lead/ too much and you’ll wind up brain dead.” Relatable for any New Orleanian, and like most of Pscience, it’s funny, scary, and catchy as hell. —Nick Pope 


Emily McWilliams delivers dark, ethereal pop on the debut album from her solo project Silver Godling. For over a decade, the singer and pianist has been an under-recognized collaborator of iconic Baton Rouge metal group Thou. Most recently, McWilliams contributed to the band’s 2018 opus Magus and was one of the most prominent voices on their acoustic EP Inconsolable. Her solo material sharply contrasts her work with Thou, favoring sparse and pristine piano rather than Thou’s signature bludgeoning guitars. McWilliams’ heart-wrenching vocals spin tales of despair with powerful clarity. Joining her on this release are Thou guitarist/electronic soundmaker Andy Gibbs and longtime New Orleans DIY staple Michael Moises on bass. The trio wisely keep their arrangements sparse, allowing the songs to breath. With tracks ranging from three-and-a-half to almost eight minutes, they dabble with both precisely executed numbers and slow, extended burners. After recent heavy touring as a prominent performer in both Thou and MJ Guider, it appears McWilliams is finally moving out of the shadows and may soon step into the spotlight. —William Archambeault 


I was excited when I first saw that Trendafilka—the eleven woman-strong Balkan chorus—had come out with an album in May. I have seen them perform a handful of times throughout the city, and the powerful, lingering resonance of their ethereal voices always leaves me enthralled. But when I listened to Under, Over, it got me thinking about the relationship between live and recorded music. The polyphonies that Trendafilka render so beautifully in person are ancient folk songs from a faraway place, and the task of translating this music to modern American ears becomes much more difficult via the medium of a recorded album, where the songs are completely stripped of their context. In other words, if you listen to this record all the way through, be prepared to work. “Ergen Dada” is one of the livelier songs, and “Patara Saqverelo,” the album’s final track, is almost cheerful compared to the overall somber tone of the album. The haunting and intricate opening solo vocals on “Vdova” and “Devoiko Mari Hubava” made me wish there were more tracks that focused on individual vocal stylings. I enjoyed, for instance, the sustained call-and-response structure between the soloist and chorus in “Oy Davno.” Ultimately, I found listening to Under, Over to be worth the effort, if only because it made me reflect on aspects of musical preservation and production that I otherwise might not have. And hey, you never know when an audible time capsule of pre-industrial Balkan village life might come in handy. —Holly Devon 


New Orleans has hosted some of the most unique instrumental rock bands. While TVP is one of the more obscure groups, their first (and also last) release, Music For Laundry, sits confidently among other pivotal instrumental releases. TVP formed after the local groups New Lands and Tare broke-up—all with commingling members lead by Josh Campbell on guitar—and continued to push the same narrative of bending pop-song principles and eccentric song names. On songs like “Your Son’s A Real Time Jingle Blaster” and “Now That’s What I Call Interior Decorating,” there is deliberate tension between progressions working in odd and even time signatures that act as a call and answer. Drummer Ian Paine-Jesum follows suit, smashing into big hits and rolling through riffs while Emma Klobnak provides hooking melodies on lead guitar over Zach Lannes’ bass chords. There were rumors that these songs would have vocals, but the choice to stay instrumental allows the music to tell a dense and complicated story that could’ve been thwarted by lyrics. “Wednesday” is a prime example of how TVP takes influence from many different post-rock and math-rock archetypes that use progressions within a linear song structure. “It Makes Me Sad I Can’t Burn Your House Down” flexes the dynamics the band can achieve, adding and subtracting layers, while “It Bangs and It Slaps” (both in the title and in the anthemic riffs) make the release a strong final note for the band, who has decided to focus on other things. Being in a band and working creatively with multiple personalities can be difficult; some bands never release anything despite working so hard to record, so TVP should be proud to have something for them and their listeners to return to. —Robert Landry 


Jim Jarmusch has made some groundbreaking, iconic movies in his four decades of filmmaking. The Dead Don’t Die is not one of them. Premiering on opening night of the Overlook Film Festival and released nationwide on June 14, Jarmusch’s zombie comedy is funny in moments, but these are overshadowed by the oppressive quirkiness that bogs the entire affair down in an inescapable quagmire of in-jokes and silly asides. Jarmusch—now an elder statesman of indie cinema—recruits an all-star cast, including unremarkable lead performances from Bill Murray and Adam Driver, solid support from Tilda Swinton and Chloe Sevigny, trope-filled caricature from Tom Waits and Steve Buscemi, and obligatory cameos from Iggy Pop, RZA, and more. The zombie action is mildly fun (more so when Swinton’s katana-wielding mortician enters the mix), but the writing is lazy, and the many moments of self-congratulatory fourth-wall breaking and boomer political satire make The Dead Don’t Die nearly unwatchable. —Raphael Helfand 


Some movies are driven by plot. For others, it’s just a device used to get from one scene to the next. That’s the case with In Fabric, a surreal and hilarious horror comedy about a haunted dress. Like David Lynch or Dario Argento, director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgundy) is much more focused on aesthetic excellence than sequential cohesion or pacing. His newest film, which screened at the Overlook Film Festival and was released in the UK on June 28, is both the strangest and funniest undertaking of 2019 so far. Masterful performances, striking wardrobes, and expertly stilted dialogue (think Yorgos Lanthamos with less deadpan) help the film create a universe of its own. There are malevolent store clerks, washing machine explosions, mannequin orgies, full scenes made up of still photos of magazine clippings, and a rope of jizz floating in slow motion across the screen. But in Strickland’s capable hands, no amount of absurdity is too much. In Fabric may run about 20 minutes too long, but it’s still one of the most engaging films I’ve ever seen. Raphael Helfand 


It was a gargantuan task that journalist and filmmaker Sacha Jenkins had before him: to tell the story of one of the most prolific and storied hip-hop groups ever. “From the slums of Shaolin,” a.k.a. Staten Island (and a few other outer burrows of NYC) came the Wu-Tang Clan, a supergroup assembled in the early 1990s by mastermind producer and visionary Robert “RZA” Diggs. The Wu was a seismic shock to global culture, with repercussions still felt to this day. And while Jenkins had four hours to play with—broken up into four one-hour episodes, currently airing on Showtime—he could’ve easily taken 40. Overall, this is a successful and informative documentary series that traces, as best it can, the history of the Wu-Tang Clan—as talented individuals and human beings in their own right, as a collective, as a business enterprise, and as a cultural force. Visually, Of Mics and Men heaps layer upon layer of visual eye candy onto a nonlinear timeline, with plenty of raw, early footage to satisfy fans, including live and in studio performances, freestyling, domestic life, old fliers, news segments, and more. The series also delves briefly into the Five-Percent Nation, an esoteric subsect of the Nation of Islam (itself an outpost of traditional Islam), which had a huge role in cultivating the Wu-Tang’s collective intelligence, talent, and worldview. (This is one area where I would’ve loved to see the documentary go deeper and in more detail.) Additionally, each member is interviewed both individually—seated in a carved wooden throne, sometimes floating against an infinite black backdrop—and as a group, assembled in Staten Island’s St. George Theatre, to chat and watch footage crucial to their lives and careers. A handful of interviews with outside celebrities are also thrown in the mix, with haphazard results. Some of these interviews are illuminating, like Prince Paul explaining how a convoluted payment structure in the music industry can sour relationships, or fellow New Yorker Ta-Nehisi Coates relating to the Wu’s upbringing. Other interviews feel like head-scratchers, such as brief moments with Seth Rogen and film director Jim Jarmusch—begging the question of how these interviews beat out a supposed Kanye West Q&A (which didn’t make the cut), or the absence of Dave Chappelle, who often worked with the Wu-Tang during the run of his own iconic, self-titled show of the same period. Also packed into these fast four hours is a historical thread that, like so much of hip-hop, formed a lot of the Wu’s vibe, from growing up on Staten Island (“Grease is one of my favorite movies,” says Raekwon in one brilliant moment, referencing the Italian toughs the Clan grew up in conflict with), to hustling early jobs (Method Man working at the Statue of Liberty gift shop, RZA selling newspapers on the Verrazzano Bridge). We also learn about Ghostface Killah’s struggles with his two disabled brothers, and rampant police violence, sometimes directed at Wu-Tang Members themselves. Naturally, a healthy segment of the documentary is devoted to Old Dirty Bastard, who died in 2004, leaving a huge hole in the Wu-Tang’s spirit. Of Mics and Men also delves into the messy finances of the Wu-Tang empire, a story well known but elaborated upon by Wu-Tang Productions’ CEO—and RZA’s older brother—Mitchell “Divine” Diggs, who acts as the documentary’s juiciest reveal (RZA had barred him from speaking before now). It’s painful to watch this mighty enterprise suffer the stresses of growing pains, engorged egos, and suspect business practices. The final episode culminates with the disastrous Once Upon a Time in Shaolin episode, in which a single copy of an album was assembled under shady circumstances, thanks in large part to wannabe-groupie-turned-Wu-clone Cilvaringz, who poaches way too much time of this documentary. The album was eventually sold at auction to mega-scumbag Martin Shkreli, the famed hedge fund manager who purchased and subsequently price-gouged a life-saving AIDS medication. Looking back, RZA views that as “the equivalent of $25 million of press,” which, like a lot of his decisions, could be interpreted as either giant misfire or master chess move. At one point, Raekwon, regarding RZA, quips, “You’re a good leader, man. But you ain’t a great leader.” With such a prolific output, meteoric rise, and steep learning curve, casualties of every kind were inevitable. But ultimately, RZA sums it all up perfectly, wizened wizard that he is, when describing one of his many work binges, where he spent long hours—days—months—in his studio, cranking out album after album: “My focus worked. I created something that will most likely outlive me.” The film ends with two distinct conclusions: that despite this deep-dive, a lot remains to be revealed about the history and impact of the Wu-Tang Clan, and that the Wu saga is far from over. —Dan Fox

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