BAND OF THE WEEK: EARTHEATER

22 Oct

We come to praise Eartheater, not to bury Eartheater.

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Eartheater cannot be buried – not now, not when Eartheater is very much alive, as alive and alienated as anything currently or previously existing on the planet, as evidenced by “RIP Chrysalis.” It’s not only Eartheater’s second standout release this year (both coming down from the holy Hausu Mountain range), but is our present time’s ultimate, unassailable high doctrine of high weirdness and, frankly, freaky shit. This is the real and imaginary Maginot line of sonic mutation. It’s glorious and there’s nothing like it.

“I’ve got time,” declares Eartheater in one of the most instantly understandable moments of “RIP Chrysalis.” “RIP Chrysalis” is not a wish to “rest in peace”; “RIP Chrysalis” is an action phrase, where “RIP” is a verb and Eartheater is ripping, clawing and tearing at all that needs to be torn apart – this chrysalis, all traps, your delusions, all confinement, all conception. Rip, rip, rip, rip. Highest possible recommendation.

“RIP Chrysalis” is available now from Hausu Mountain.

“Fixed ideas are like a wisp of cloud or smoke, but nonetheless people find themselves blocked or captured by these. You would laugh if you saw someone tripped by a cloud, or if someone claimed that they were imprisoned by the air. But, in fact, people are endlessly being trapped by things no more substantial than air or clouds. They make a wall with their mind, and then it imprisons them. Inherently, there is no wall or anything to trip over. These things are mirages they’ve created from the thoughts they gave rise to” – Daehaeng Kun Sunim 

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BAND OF THE WEEK: PLANT TRIBE

15 Oct

Does anybody really know what time it is? According to the title of Plant Tribe’s debut album (available soon from Space Chant Records), it’s “Late Noon” and their asteroid-eating approach sounds better on “Late” than ever.

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Despite what the title might tell us, the Plant Tribe on “Late Noon” sounds timeless, if somewhat territorially tied to that universal notion of “party-time.” “Late Noon” is fueled by gris-gris grooves from the get, likely to elicit a smile long before a sneer. It’s the sound of revved-up rhythms, drums and bass as fun and fluid as a well-warmed lava lamp; of expertly executed fuzz-and-wah attacks, guitars channel-separated at birth for a life of maximum-altitude headphone adventures; of vocals that woo and wail, prominently presented in the mix, where so many bands sound somewhat dead-eyed and content to be buried. Not Plant Tribe – the sound here is fully alive, growing and glowing, stems and seeds unable to interrupt one green hit after another.

What colors grace the flowers of the Plant Tribe vine? Think Blue Cheer, Deep Purple and black-light posters with frayed-corners that stretch out toward infinity. It’s an intergalactic party – who could ask for more? On “Late Noon,” we find Plant Tribe sounding most heroic on star-stained sonic blasters like “Eternal Villainy” and “Past Life,” while the ten-minute plus “Mice” is a lions-roar seen through a lysergic lens. On the coda to “Fish Bowl Blues,” Plant Tribe goes swimming with a “Fun House” saxophone, and requests the listener to “take another sip of your cosmic cocktail.” At that point, only the most stubborn bores could fail to raise their glass.

Where the Plant Tribe grows, nobody knows, except that its roots are deeply and unmistakably Californian. But while Plant Tribe may have sprouted up in their Long Beach locale, they seem to have caught their blaze in the northern sky, their sound echoing with fiery flashbacks from the Owsley-assisted pioneers of the Bay Area, those found at the Red Dog Saloon, the Carousel Ballroom, and the Fillmore, resulting in an endearing and enduring celebration of electric music for the mind and body.

But Plant Tribe is no nostalgia act. While past lives are on display throughout “Late Noon,” it’s a crime to mistake Plant Tribe’s photosynthesis for photo-realistic recreation. They’re out there having fun, in the warm California sun, right here and right now. We find here the sound of California post-Powell Peralta, post-Fu Manchu, post-heads with dispensary cards getting legally lifted in ways that would make the previous generations brightest tie-dye, die.

The Plant Tribe clock ticks out timeless tunes, universals odes to not getting hassled. If you’re stuck in the astro-muck, you’re in luck because you’ll find “Late Noon” is right on time. Let’s party.

“Late Noon” is available for pre-order now at Space Chant Records.

“In essence, keep your mind relaxed at all times and accept the manifold experiences of life. Look at all situations with a sense of cheer and humor and, just as we may watch a comedy on the television to relieve tension, we should laugh at ourselves and have no tension.”

Geshe Namgyal Wangchen

BAND OF THE WEEK: HEY COLOSSUS + HENRY BLACKER

8 Oct

On this, our third attempt at sullying the growing-good name of the cosmic-crush-collective known as Hey Colossus by shackling them with the “Band of the Week” designation, we’re bound to be repeating ourselves. Hey Colossus, on “Radio Static High” – their second, superlative full-length album released this year alone (on the ever-exploding Rocket Recordings), are doing nothing of the sort.

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“Radio Static High” would seem by many measures to be the high-water mark for all Hey Colossus releases thus far, and not just for the boundless creative energy the band has so securely harnessed.

From the opening, pyromaniac-on-Prozac dirge of the title track, to the closing, shard-spewing shuffle of “Honey,” the true magnificence of the multi-hued, multi-headed, multi-heavy Hey Colossus machine is on display. Crater-causing fuzz-bomb detonations abound, on “March of the Headaches” and “Hesitation Time,” exploding this way and that, oddly-timed and unpredictable. But as with “In Black and Gold” from earlier this year, there’s an incredible shimmer, a sheen, a sparkling refinement evident in the latest songs from Hey Colossus – not pop-y, not hook-y, but then, not not pop-y, not not hook-y. It’s Hey Colossus on a higher octane, burning their anger cleanly, frustration finding fruition in songs that recall “Remain in Light” or “Funeral at the Movies” as much and as magically as they might recall “Houdini” (or, say, “Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo“).

Unparalleled, unbridled creativity? It’s a neat trick that Hey Colossus have mastered. Here, we reveal the secret blueprint to their success:

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See? It’s easy – any one can do it. Or so it would seem, when we listen to the easy-to-love, utterly immediate energy that infests “Summer Tombs,” the second album from the Hey Colossus-related Henry Blacker, and spectacularly, also released this year (on the also spectacular Riot Season Records). “Summer Tombs” is a nail-bomb spewing riff-rocket of an album, going down as smoothly and addictively as your favorite (or most lethal) intoxicant.

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In simplest terms, “Summer Tombs” is an album we can relate to, terrifying as that may be. It’s loud and lumpy rock and roll just the way we like it, a mutant-metal battle-cry of adult angst, back pain and Monks-level complications, wherein the singer just might sigh, “aw, for fuck’s sake” in the middle of a song (as occurs in the brilliant “Shit Magus” – and we’re inclined to have a custom-made football jersey ordered with this name on the back). It’s an odd, electrifying eruption of three musketeers fueled by a “QOTSA-first-album-only” ethos that sounds serious, while being not even half-serious about it. Serious bands don’t come up with song titles like “Cold Laking,” but Henry Blacker does, and that’s what makes our love for Henry Blacker so serious. Seriously. It’s the sound of Tony Iommi taking a break from the toot in order to play you the riffs from “Mob Rules” just a half-step slower and saying, “fuck the fringed-leather – let’s boogie.” Henry Blacker responds to the musical question, “What if ZZ Top recorded ‘Welcome to Hell’?” with a query of its own – “What if Venom recorded ‘Tres Hombres’?”

Seven songs in thirty minutes, without a wasted moment, Henry Blacker’s second album is one that we consider perfect. Play often and at high volume. Choose your poison and met us in the “Summer Tombs.”

“Radio Static High” is available now from Rocket Recordings. “Summer Tombs” is available now from Riot Season Records. Your sanity is no longer available.

“Suffering is our best teacher because it hangs onto us and keeps us in its grip until we have learnt that particular lesson. Only then does suffering let go. If we haven’t learnt our lesson, we can be quite sure that the same lesson is going to come again, because life is nothing but an adult education class, If we don’t pass in any of the subjects, we just have to sit the examination again. Whatever lesson we have missed, we will get it again. That is why we find ourselves reacting to similar situations in similar ways many times.” – Ayya Khema

BAND OF THE WEEK: DEAD SEA APES + ZETA ONE

1 Oct

There’s an undeniably deep – and perhaps unjustifiable – personal connection that we feel in regard to the music of Dead Sea Apes, the UK-dwelling, three-headed hydra of space-dub who’ve recently released their third and arguably finest full-length album to date, “Spectral Domain” (a co-release from Cardinal Fuzz and their stateside partners, Sunrise Ocean Bender).

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It’s a connection that, frankly, probably has something to do with the use of the word “ape.” But there’s also something much, much deeper than that. Yet having now been listening to Dead Sea Apes rather intently and undoubtedly intensely for the better part of five years, it’s difficult to parse out exactly what it is that sets “Spectral Domain” apart from the Ape-scapes that preceded it. Indeed, this album stands up nicely as simply a multi-dimensional prism of their first album, the world-beating “Lupus,” reflecting related territories, now further refined, but with a sound that cascades even more broadly, powered by a more muscular sense of sonic sturm und drang. That Dead Sea Apes seem to be growing steadily “heavier” – in the most sacred, most inexpressible sense of the word – is a bit counter-intuitive. If the earliest Dead Sea Apes material was heavily indebted to the power of the almighty riff, “Spectral Domain” sees the band training their collective third-eye on the invisible twin-engines of tone and timbre.

The tonal transitions that build the band’s battered bridge between wondering and wandering are evident in every single minute of “Spectral Domain,” without a single lost or wasted moment.

The ten minutes-plus of “Universal Interrogator” set the tone for the album as a whole – deliberate, unhurried and unafraid to paint their shared canvas several shades darker than “nefarious.” It seems key that the first word on “Spectral Domain” references the universal, especially given that the Apes provide no context clues in the form of vocals. It seems that the true magic of “Spectral Domain” – and the true magick of Dead Sea Apes, historically – is the band’s ability to create from thin air a shared musical language between its three members. In their capable hands, this experience tracks as something several meaningful degrees apart from simply “jamming,” and towards a freedom to roam and explore that envelops the listener into an exercise in Gnosis.

Big-G “gnosis” is not a concept that lends itself to easy explanation; in fact, it may defy explanation by its very definition, as does the music of Dead Sea Apes in general, and “Spectral Domain” in particular. Hailing Dead Sea Apes’ unearthly dub-gnosticism is a tricky proposition, as it’s quite literally impossible for us to write something that your ears don’t instinctively know. Yet somewhere between Armageddon and salvation, somewhere amid the P.K. Dick-meets-King Tubby-in-space environs masterfully manifested on album-closer “Sixth Side of the Pentagon,” there’s a shared knowledge that awaits transmission, and it begins with the realization that there’s no band on earth heavier than Dead Sea Apes.

If the strength of “Spectral Domain” lies in the Professor X-level mind-meld that occurs between the band’s members, the debut release from Zeta One benefits from an equal-but-alternate approach to roaming gnosis, a singular and solitary version of cosmic exploration, with no lack of mutant flavor in its mass of way-out sounds.

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DreamSnake II” (out now from the incessantly awesome Eiderdown Records) is the work of one Dawn Aquarius, who formerly spent time in previous (and without a doubt, future) “Band of the Week” victims, Herbcraft. Consisting of ten tracks over a pulse-quickening and eye-opening thirty-six minutes, “Dreamsnake II” sheds its sonic skin and leaves behind an unforgettable, indescribable, synth-heavy cosmic ceremony of turbo-weird delights.

So, what does it sound like? It’s called “DreamSnake II,” it’s the creation of a woman named Dawn Aquarius, who used to be in Herbcraft, and it boasts song titles like “Face Humanoid,” “Mysteri-Atman” and “Ching Witch.” You do the math.

Or better yet, don’t do the math. Listen to Zeta One without expectations, your ears open to any and all interpretation. We knew nothing about “DreamSnake II” or its creator upon our first listen; we knew only that it was a new release Eiderdown Records, which, historically, is all we need to pique the interest of the apes.

What we found was a release positively over-flowing with crystal-visioned creativity. Ladies and gentleman, we are floating way, way, way out in space. On “Electroscopic,” Zeta One echoes with the type of intergalactic yearning that recalls Brightblack Morning Light. On “Gamma Draconis,” Zeta One delivers a miniature Faust-ian waltz, appropriate for dances on alternate galaxies or in altered states. On “WORGOZWEIL,” Zeta One rumbles like Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” generating an image of Johnny Blaze’s flaming skull sending stacks of tarot cards alight and up in smoke.

Smoke ‘em if ya’ got ‘em. “DreamSnake II” spoke to us directly, immediately. Not a day has gone by since first listen that we haven’t incorporated “DreamSnake II” into our daily rotation, either early, early in the morning and late, late, late at night – and Zeta One fits both spots perfectly. We know exactly what Zeta One is saying, even though, much like Dead Sea Apes, we’d be hard-pressed to accurately translate what exactly is being said. Listen – can you hear it, too?

Dead Sea Apes‘ “Spectral Domain” is available now.

Zeta One’s “DreamSnake II” is available now, too.

“If we make a quick examination of our own mind, we can see the reason this kind of stability is so crucial. Although physics has observed light to be the fastest traveling phenomenon known to man, actually the speed at which our minds travel is even faster. We can circle the globe in a matter of seconds, and our minds generate doubts, emotions, and conceptual thoughts at a speed that defies that of all other phenomena. Because we lack basic mental stability, conceptual thoughts arise endlessly. So, if our goal is to realize the nature of mind, we first have to learn to still our minds, and free ourselves from distraction. The method for quieting the mind is called ‘meditative concentration.’ Once we have gained some initial mind stability, it is even more important that we continue our training so that this stability will increase. Without such stability, it is impossible for us to successfully learn to abide in the uncontrived view.”
Anyen Rinpoche, The Union of Dzogchen and Bodhichitta

BAND OF THE WEEK: LUMINOUS BODIES

24 Sep

“Scumbag lysergic racket” is the term-employed by Luminous Bodies in order to describe the titanic, tinnitus-friendly amplified chaos birthed and blasted relentlessly on their recently released self-titled debut album (out now on Box Records).

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We’ll withhold our judgment at the moment on the band’s self-identification under the label of “scumbag,” but when it comes to a “lysergic racket,” perhaps no band on earth has ever more accurately nailed their appeal, their essence, their molten core. So spot-on is the description that it makes writing about Luminous Bodies feel like an exercise in futility, and not a particularly beneficial exercise at that. Suffice it to say that Luminous Bodies are currently the galaxy’s foremost and most accomplished purveyors of “scumbag lysergic racket,” and the resulting album is undeniably the “scumbag lysergic racket” album of the year.

Saying much more than that would threaten to destroy the utter joy that comes from having these songs shred the time and space continuum that exists between our ears, which we’re tempted to describe as the sound of Galactus giving up the intergalactic ghost, smoking a bag of anything, and getting way, way, way into “Vincebus Eruptum.” The Luminous Bodies mission statement could be something like, “land on a riff, bash that motherfucker out, squeeze the life out of it and create a new life in the process.” But such descriptions may trivialize the album’s accomplishments and, more important, such descriptions fail to better that which has erupted straight from the Bodies’ mouth – “scumbag lysergic racket.”

When the album opens with “Man’s Milk,” a high-steed ride designed to trample and crush all that step into its path, the listener inevitably felled while asking the musical question, “How come David Lee Roth never joined the Melvins for ‘Stoner Witch’”? It’s “scumbag lysergic racket.”

When “Stay Dead” delivers what is possibly the most life-affirming hook on the entire album (and make no mistake – this is “scumbag lysergic racket” that is at times positively riddled with hooks), while croaking out classic lines like, “a collapsing star is your new look”? It’s “scumbag lysergic racket.”

When “Lady Graveyard” struts and slays, bringing to mind a distant, alien-born relative to Pentagram’s “Lazy Lady,” or what would be, in the wrong hands, the worst song that L.A. Guns never recorded, yet, instead, effortlessly becomes “A.C. Guns (alpha centauri, that is)”? When “Destroyed” employs a “Pay to Cum” pace and extolls the virtues of drugs and brown rice, possibly at the same time? When album closer “Om Naman Shivaya” dares to ask another musical question that no thought needed answering – namely, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Donovan joined Extreme Noise Terror”? It’s “scumbag lysergic racket.”

All hail “scumbag lysergic racket.” All hail Luminous Bodies. Listen loudly. Listen repeatedly. Stay dead.

The self-titled debut from Luminous Bodies is available now from Box Records.

“Luminous is this mind, brightly shining, but it is colored by the attachments that visit it. This unlearned people do not really understand, and so do not cultivate the mind. Luminous is this mind, brightly shining, and it is free of the attachments that visit it. This the noble follower of the way really understands; so for them there is cultivation of the mind.” – Anguttara Nikaya

 

BAND OF THE WEEK: XUA

16 Sep

Mekong Moon,” the stunning, magical and magically addictive debut album from Xua, is preceded by a musical question or two, as asked by the album’s creator, one Joshua Lee Vineyard, notably also a member of Portland, Oregon’s “Bardo”-blasting Swahili (a band that itself was a recent victim of “Band of the Week” honors). Vineyard asks …

“What would a future world sound like if eastern culture emerged as the world’s dominating power? What unheard radio transmissions would emerge?”

They’re questions that are not quite answerable, but neither are they exactly rhetorical. Yet if “Mekong Moon” can be heard as Vineyard’s attempt at earnestly responding to his own questions and hearing the answers in what was previously unheard, we can’t be alone in hearing a future world that sounds beautiful, wide-awake and endlessly expansive, a transmission far outside the limits of genre or geography – and easily one of the most fully engrossing albums of this (or any other) year.

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Thematically, the origin of “Mekong Moon” lies in Vineyard’s travels throughout Southeast Asia, while sonically, the album speaks in the language of 70s synth techniques, perhaps not krautrock in any defined sense, but certainly not not-kosmische. As a point of reference, “Mekong Moon” pairs favorably with “Musik Von Harmonia,” the Harmonia debut from 1974 – Xua songs like “Man Teiv Ghosts” and “Snow Globe” can be heard as distant cousins to Harmonia’s “Watussi” and “Dino.” But where Harmonia was somewhat of a supergroup, Xua’s is a decidedly solitary journey – no group, but super nonetheless.

“Mekong Moon” begins with the title track, field-recorded chanting merging with ominous voiceover (which we no doubt erroneously hear as the Vietnamese equivalent to “stand clear of the closing doors, please”), before stepping cinematically into an all-enveloping blanket of sound, serpentine and seductive. The beauty on display in the opening minutes of “Mekong Moon” is positively overwhelming to our ears, a cascading wave of sound, pulsing as vibrantly, as vividly as the multi-hued lunar landscape that graces the album’s cover.

If the opening track threatens an album of dreamy soundscapes that float gently into the ether without regard for gravity – and this is perhaps the most beautiful threat that we can imagine – the simple-yet-insistent beat of “Man Tiev Ghosts” brings our moonlight ride closer to the realm of terra-firma. At the point of first listen, it becomes clear that “Mekong Moon” has the potential to be far more than just a collection of far-out sounds, but to coalesce into the form of an album with structure and, dare we say, dignity. By the time we’re two minutes in to the seven minutes of “Royal Nam Khan,” that potential has found full-flower in Xua’s majestic sounds.

As a whole, “Mekong Moon” sounds completely and utterly alive, and while it would be a stretch to say it ever attempts humor, there exists is these songs a certain wide-eyed wonderment that easily, effortlessly gives birth to smiles. We would suggest that “Mekong Moon” is neither “heavy” nor particularly “light.” Rather, it is both heavy and light, allowing room for infinite varieties of distinction, powered by a non-differentiation between “heavy” and “light.”

Still, despite repeat playings of “Mekong Moon” that number well in to double-digits, we would deny a grasp on anything like expertise (or even anything beyond a rudimentary understanding) on topics such as Southeast Asia and 70s synth techniques, nor the merging of the two. All we can do is react to the result. For Xua’s “Mekong Moon,” that result is an album that sounds perfectly perfumed by both reality and fantasy, magnificently manifested in now-heard radio transmissions delivered by Vineyard’s active, agile imagination.

“Mekong Moon” by Xua is available now from Debacle Records.

“Treasury of the true Dharma-eye” – by Eihei Dogen

In the heart of the night,

The moonlight framing

A small boat drifting,

Tossed not by the waves

Nor swayed by the breeze.

“The image of illumination by the moon has connotations from the poetic tradition, in which it represents an object of longing and the source of comfort in times of turmoil and grief, as well as Buddhist implications as the symbol of the universal manifestations of the compassion and wisdom of Buddha-nature. The moon deepens the meaning of the resolute detachment of the casting off of the boat. The boat is cut off from the harbor, as perhaps Dōgen felt isolated during his trip to the Five Mountains Rinzai center. But because the boat falls within the encompassment of the moon’s glow, it is not lost but protected by the compassionate Buddha‐nature. Yet in contrast to the moon, the boat is not totally aloof from the world of variability; it remains involved, at once aimless in its solitude and purposeful in its disciplined response to change. The single phenomenon of the drifting boat shares the detached perspective and illuminative remoteness of the moonlight, and partakes of the world into which it has been cast out, yet has learned to cast off perpetually.” – Steven Heine, “The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace

BAND OF THE WEEK: MIDDAY VEIL

10 Sep

Somewhere among the sonic synchronicity that binds together the forty-two minutes of Midday Veil’s animated and eloquent new album “This Wilderness,” attentive listeners will be struck by the realization that the human organism embodied by the listener is an integral part of an interconnected ecosystem.

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It’s a realization about self, size and scope, and like the album itself, it’s massive. Midday Veil have long found themselves comfortable creating colossal concerns, as recorded on the band’s earliest, self-released explorations. The band’s preceding full-length album – 2013’s “The Current,” named one of the year’s best avant-rock releases by The Wire – could be viewed as the band emerging from their kosmische chrysalis, unfurling previously unheard banners of both color and control. “This Wilderness” is the sound of the band under the self-imposed hypnosis of that emergence, extending the voyage with even more discipline than ever before.

Yet it’s the mystery of “This Wilderness” that makes the album among the most creatively compelling of this or any year, and vocalist and founding member Emily Pothast gives voice to that mystery both literally and figuratively. On the opening invocation of “Babel,” Pothast addresses her place within “This Wilderness” and by extension, the place of the listener as well: “This wilderness amazes me / but covers me with shame / when I aspire to codify / the thing that has no name.” On “Babel” and throughout “This Wilderness,” the band stands firmly in the midst of that amazement, transmitting a wide-eyed discovery of the full potential of their sounds and surroundings, utterly resisting retreat into a preordained musical framework and embracing the endless multiplicity of perspective.

The beating musical heart of “This Wilderness” remains the out-sized synth wizardry of co-founder David Golightly, who seems to have ingested every possible mind-altering sound from Stockhausen to Cybotron to the “Love to Love You” of Donna Summer. They’re all on display here, made especially ornate by the driving percussion of Garrett Moore, the deep, submerging bass of Jayson Kochan, and the often-explosive, reptilian guitar lines of multi-instrumentalist Timm Mason. Rounding out the lineup is an all-star cast of guest spots including Bernie Worrell (Parliament, Funkadelic), Eyvind Kang and Skerik.

It’s unclear what will happen next, nor does it seem to particularly matter. Midday Veil will be staying in “This Wilderness” – in an increasingly interconnected, dynamic, even dangerous cosmos – for quite awhile, and it’s our good fortune to join them.

“Does it feel like magic? Does it feel like pain? Does it scratch the surface? The echo that remains.”

“This Wilderness” is out Sept. 11 on Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records.

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