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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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Lone - Abraxas EP Music Album Reviews

The breakbeat revivalist returns to well-worn rave tropes, yielding diminishing returns.

Clubland’s recent obsession with breakbeats has thrust the idiosyncratic British producer Lone into an improbably fashionable position, with tracks like “Temples” and “Pulsar” slotting, almost despite themselves, into the trend for gritty drum breaks at a house tempo. But the longtime breakbeat revivalist’s Abraxas EP, inspired by pitched-down drum’n’bass, unwittingly sounds a warning bell for the style’s rapidly diminishing returns.


Lone’s interest in breakbeats solidified on Levitate, in 2016—an age ago in electronic music—and continued through the recent Ambivert Tools 12-inch series. To this rave revivalism he brought a gift for mystical melody and dusty atmosphere that elevated his productions above mere novelty. But as his fellow producers pile into the retro wave, these traits are almost entirely absent on Abraxas, an EP that resembles a paint-by-numbers breakbeat kit. 

It’s not so much that there is little going on in the three tracks here—some of the best electronic music is made up of very little—as that there is nothing truly noteworthy: no new sounds or rhythmic inflection to put a spring in the step, no intriguing melodies or production trickery to capture the heart. Instead, Abraxas relies heavily on some of the most well-worn tropes in dance music, from the “Funky Drummer” break to choral pads, all rendered in a prosaic manner that does little to redeem them.

The Lisbon DJ Violet made the point in a recent Guardian article that breakbeats can be recycled in countless configurations, in a way that “recharges meaning as opposed to exhausting it.” But the breakbeats on Abraxas feel tired to the point of lethargy. Lone digs shallow into the store of classic breaks and just kind of leaves them there, unmolested in the mix, when a more adventurous mind might have chopped them to hell and back. Given that radically altered breakbeats were pretty much the whole point of ’90s drum’n’bass, this lackadaisical attitude is puzzling.

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Equally dispiriting is Lone’s use of the Roland TB-303—the other most over-used sound in ’90s electronic music—which pops up on the EP doing very little of interest. Dillinja’s “Acid Track” and Josh Wink’s “Higher State of Consciousness” both proved long ago that 303 plus breakbeat can be a chemically potent mix. But the three tracks on Abraxas have none of Dillinja’s sheer acidic filth or Wink’s brutally effective danceability. Instead, with the possible exception of “Young Star Cluster,” the 303s on Abraxas wobble around indolently, like hippos in a mud lake.

So what else remains? The title track adds a synth melody that wafts about without ever setting fire to the curtains and the kind of “exotic” instrumental sample misused on ’90s rave records to denote globe-trotting depth. “Young Star Cluster” has a nagging kalimba melody, a halfway decent 303 squelch, and airy melodic flutters. “How Can You Tell” closes the EP with angelic synth washes à la The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and a catchy sub-bass line. And that is that, pretty much, for a hugely underwhelming package.

As Octo Octa’s recent work shows, there is still mileage to be gotten out of reviving music’s most modish decade. But Abraxas’ lackluster approach makes you wish Lone had dug into the daredevil spirit of the ’90s rather than aping its sonic trappings. Lone has made far better music and will probably continue to do so. But lesser breakbeat revivalists should consider themselves warned by this wet blanket of a record.


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