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Burn Movie Review

Sizzlingly Odd
In his debut feature, writer/director Mike Gan has created a small film that, if there's justice, will attain a cult-like status. "Burn" takes place in the course of one evening and entirely within the confines of a rural, out-of-the-way gas station shop.
It's the kind of place that loners might wander into for a hot cup of coffee at 3am. Obviously this is not a big budget film, but Gan squeezes an awful lot of goodness out of it. Maybe we should call it badness.

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Ami Dang - Parted Plains Music Album Reviews

The Baltimore ambient musician uses sitar and synthesizers to investigate folkloric narratives from around the world.

Near the end of her life, the great Jungian analyst and folklorist Marie Louse von Franz declared that civilization requires myth in order to survive. She believed that the Christian myth on which Western civilization is founded had degenerated; in its place, she repped for alchemy, a pet obsession of her former mentor, which has yet to catch on. But her larger point resonates. We need stories to make sense of our lives and to propel us into the future; if the myths we live by have brought us to the brink of global collapse, might a change be in order?


Baltimore’s Ami Dang doesn’t attempt anything quite so bold as a global consciousness reset on Parted Plains, her new album for Leaving Records. But she does dive into the shadowy, archetypal waters of the fairy tale, weaving impressions of ancient stories with modern sounds. The album purports to sketch a fresh take on something as old as language, soundtracking “a yet-to-be written folktale that is neither Eastern nor Western, not traditional or contemporary—but somewhere in between.” She does this by blending sitar explorations with thick ambient synth backdrops, often bypassing new age’s cheap fusion cliches for something uneasy and darkly moody.

Parted Plains is a mixed bag, but it’s also a grower. The stories Dang uses as a jump-off point can be pored over as coded maps of the psyche, their every detail and twist passed down through the generations precisely because of a deep spiritual resonance. Her compositions feel more like cues for a movie we don’t get to see. Still, they have a vibe. The sound design can be compelling, with synths gurgling and writhing, haunting reverb trailing her sitar, and paranoid sub bass keeping the hippies at bay. “Make Enquiry” uses slurry metallic noises reminiscent of early grime, while “Stockholm Syndrome” recreates the psychological shift observed in victims of its 1973 hostage situation namesake (which has itself ascended to the rank of modern folklore): The first minute basks in clammy subterranean dread before abruptly pivoting to a serenely bucolic chill.

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But the pieces rarely get off the ground, and then too often wrap up by dispersing into nothing, like a dandelion blown into the summer breeze. “Bopoluchi,” named after a Little Red Riding Hood-type character from India, coasts for a bit, abruptly changes course, and then stops dead in its tracks. The source text tells of a young woman’s journey far from home and deep into the woods, where animals speak a secret language and a battle of the wits must be fought with a bandit and his witch co-conspirator. How the music relates to this tale of danger and redemption is anyone’s guess.

Dang spends a lot of the LP soloing, but the best moments are when her instruments gel. On “Sohni,” she layers her sitar in delay to build a shower of plucky cries over a mournful synth harmony. It’s a poignant exhale which skips the noodling that pervades many of her other tracks. The closing “Souterrain” goes the opposite route, opening with an unaccompanied solo which is answered, one minute in, by urgent arpeggiations and spacious groans. In those suspended moments, you feel Dang’s conviction coming through. At its strongest, Parted Plains feels intimate; at its weakest it seems private to the point of opacity. One wishes Dang had committed more to the timelessness of her folklore inspirations, and less to the East-meets-West mashup. After all, something that’s neither Eastern, Western, new, or old might be something just diffuse enough to be nothing much at all.


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