Weekly: Makes Me Tick

the capstan shafts
In this age of mp3s, podcasts, overhype, oversaturation of markets, and just a general overload of music for all, I feel like I (and probably all of us) have not only altered our way of listening to music (ipods, mp3 players, computers, mix CDs ... ), but also our tastes.
There is a certain type of music that I like a lot, but I almost never like the groups' albums, and I almost never listen to their songs more than twice.
It's strange. I mentally separate bands that do not rely on this "new age" of music to survive and those who heavily rely on it. And I probably think of the latter as the "real" bands ... the guys that, while the 'net helps, would be fine without it. But that doesn't mean I don't like the little guys' music ... there's plenty of stuff out there that makes me go. Albeit, it makes me go for a total of three minutes or so, as opposed to like, Interpol, whose entire library I've heard too many times.
Something about Union Whale makes me stare at my feet. The band gives me the feeling that I should be sad, but doesn't give me the symptoms of being sad. Sloppy harmonies, bad acoustics, toy drum kits ... they've got their nonchalant and lo-fi sound down pat. Listen to PostPunk Geometry, ExTrickster Hologram, Swimming, and Sentinel Light.
The Capstan Shafts is a bit more ambitious -- and certainly peppier -- than Union Whale, but they're still pretty lo-fi. The weird thing about them is that they always seem rushed ... drums off a bit, singers not quite together ... and all their songs start at where most songs would be ending. Definitely a strange and quirky group. Get the whole Halaluah Moancoaxers! EP here.
Now Javelins is an interesting group. Sort of like the guitar pop of Aztec Camera and Orange Juice, but not as tight. And the vocalist sounds like he's gasping for air. But they've got a bit of a punk edge to their songs, too. Ah -- those Swedes ... listen to When I Was 7, I Was Raised As a Polar Bear, Dexter's Got a Sinister Heart, Nastacular, Nosebleeders On the Track, Javelins: You're Beautiful, Nothing Will Ever Happen, and My Best Friend.
Yim Tin Tam is sort of geeky. But I like 'em. Like a garage version of the Monochrome Set or something. A sort of jazzier approach to pop and lighter rock, which is a sound I like. There ought to be more of it! Listen to Killing Time and By Hook or Crook.
And now for the band that doesn't quite "fit" into this post: the Haunches. This is a cool band! Sort of electro-rock stuff ... pretty bass heavy, precise drumming, dinky synth lines, and a cool male and female singer. I especially like how the two singers work as a sort of tag team, the jumpy guy singing for a bit, then the more refined female voice coming in. Listen to their whole album, My Tender Loins (haha ... very funny), on their website.
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Vibrations 22.2

I don't know if I like this new trend of band naming. While bands like They Shoot Horses Don't They? have ... interesting and fun names, they're a mouthful. And it's just way cooler to say, "yeah -- I listen to Deerhoof, Beck, the Fiery Furnaces ... " than "yeah, my favorite bands are Pretty Girls Make Graves, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, and You Say Party! We Say Die!"
That being said, you should give the Ape Drape Escape a listen. The UK band is wacky (they've written fake bios of each of the band members and they wear funny clothes) and a sort of combination of the Cramps' hyper punk and the electronic cacophony of DEVO. While I like them, I'm sorry guys -- I'm not likely to name drop you in a conversation.
the Ape Drape Escape - Soregums
the Ape Drape Escape - U Need Glue
the Ape Drape Escape - I Am the Uniform
the Ape Drape Escape - Ultra Modern Homes

Now Emit plays another strange mix of styles. They've got the lyric and vocal edge of the Streets, but they've added plenty of dancey angular punk to the mix. I don't know if I could listen to more than 17 minutes of these guys, but they're interesting. Maybe they're become more certain of their sound when (and if) they get signed ...
Emit - Gum
Emit - Argument Amnesiac
Emit - Stereo Love
Emit - Stupid Things
Emit - Holes

Oh, now I like Loka. Electronic stuff that has a very free flow, improvised feel to it. Some of his stuff sounds like it could be from like, a hard-boiled detective mystery movie soundtrack, but it may be a little too spontaneous for that. Imagine Blonde Redhead doing an electronic, jazzier side project. That's sort of what Loka's like. I like listening to this sort of thing since it's always fun to try and figure out where the artist's influences are coming from. Loka's are certainly all over the place.
Loka - Meet Dad

And since it's been a while since I've posted about electronic music, why not add Matinee Orchestra to the mix here? I like this band (I never know what to call ambient groups ... for some reason they don't seem to be a "band" to me). Sort of the mish-mash style of the Books, but a bit more focused. Although not by much. They use a lot of field sounds, plenty of vocal samples, and lots of interesting instruments. Definitely worth a listen.
Matinee Orchestra - Pray, Rock, Stone, Paper, Scissors (clip)
Matinee Orchestra - I'll Never Be Afraid Again (clip)
Arable Records' MySpace page

And to end on a quiet note ... Lise Westzynthius, a singer-songwriter born to Danish and Finnish parents. She's lived all over Europe, it seems, but now lives in London where she sings charming piano songs that pull my heartstrings. Her whisper of a voice makes her songs all the more eerily sad ...
Lise Westzynthius - The Wreck
Lise Westzynthius - Break Another Heart

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Weekly: All Over the Board

I've got another confusing mess of music updates for all you guys (and girls, don't mean to be sexist).
Bang! Bang! sounds like a really crazy band, right? The name implies vigor and power and lots of energy ... maybe some dance mixed in. And for the most part, that's the sort of music Bang! Bang! plays: dancey, slightly funky punk-inspired tunes. But the bizarre thing about them is that they somehow like, hold back a lot of their energy, it seems. It's almost like the singer whispers her songs, and then they just turn the volume way up on the mixer. I dunno ... sort of weird production in that regard. Listen to Days Are #'d and Creepwalking.
And funny that I mention whisperers because the Candy Bars totally whisper their songs. But I like them, too ... I feel like I could hum along to all their songs, and yeah -- maybe I am. They offset their light lyrics and singing with heavier psychedelic guitars. Interesting mix. Listen to Violets and Enough to Choke a Cold Air.
And if you want some good ol' folky rock & roll, then listen to a bit of Woody Whatever's stuff. The guys' music is real chill, as it ought to be, considering that they've somehow managed to record 15 albums in the past four or five years. Listen to Yesterday I Threw A Hand Grenade, With a Gun, and Sin City, all from their latest album Time ≠ Money, although there are probably like, five more records to come this year.
For some reason I associate the music of Monkey Swallows the Universe with that of a solo singer-songwriter. I don't know how a band of five makes such sparse music, but they do. They sound a bit like PJ Harvey, but a bit more orchestral and not as rough at the edges. Check out Sheffield Shanty and Jimmy Down the Well from their record The Bright Carvings.
Aw man, Wizardzz is a weird band ... they're a Lightening Bolt side project, and they definitely sound like Lightening Bolt in that spazzy prog-rock sort of way. But they're also different than Lightening Bolt ... sounds to me like this record is supposed to be the soundtrack to some game of Dungeons and Dragons ... a sort of spacier sound than the one associated with Lightening Bolt. Listen to Whispers From Wallface.
And lastly: Cities. Man are these guys cool. Angst ridden goth rock, with a twist of post-rock. They've definitely got this sort of trudging along feel -- even on their faster songs -- but they somehow maintain a pretty high energy level. Very cool ... listen to A Theme and Cancer.
That's it. Go home.
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Another BiBaBiDi Mini Mix

I swear that I will post about like, new bands in a sec. I've got stuff written down, okay, and I will tell you all about them in a day or something. But I uploaded a bunch more songs and so I'm delivering another mini mix now ...
Have fun ... ?
New Order - Paradise
Monochrome Set - The Lighter Side of Dating
the Feelies - Raised Eyebrows
the Swirlies - Bell
Quickspace - Gloriana

I wish I could go on about why I chose these songs, but I suppose that's sort of the theme with this mini mix (although I could indeed talk at length about both New Order and Monochrome Set ... )
Anyway -- I have an issue with listening to music from the mid-80s to mid-90s. It's not that I don't like the music ... I love Pavement, the Smiths, Beastie Boys, Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth ... I like all those bands. I do not understand them. While I was not even around during the birth of post-punk and punk and noise rock and no-wave and all those other bands loosely classified as "new wave," I have read a lot about them. I've raided many a 70s and 80s magazine collection, I've read and heard plenty of interviews, I've browsed anthologies and record listings, I've read old reviews ... I "know" that period. But there is no 24 Hour Party People for like, Pavement ... or the Swirlies or the Feelies or Quickspace, for that matter. I like the music, and that's, for some bizarre reason, frustrating to me. I like Blondie not just for musical reasons, for example ... I like Blondie because I like what I read about that band ... I like the interviews, I like the style, and I would have loved to have gone to a concert. While I wasn't around during the Blondie years, I have a very vivid image of what "the Blondie years" were. I have no image of the mid-80s to mid-90s.
So someone: please make more movies and books about them ... make me feel more connected to the music I think I like.
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BiBaBiDi Mini Mix 1.5

It's back by popular request. Or rather, one request. Requests aside, though, I was planning on doing more of these mixes for the blog, as I have a huge amount of unused bandwidth that I want to share. (Why the hell is sharing always such a big theme with me? I disgust myself ... ).
This mix features some of my favorite mix songs -- songs that are bound to be on a mix that I make for someone. Perhaps not the first mix, but all of these songs are bound to be on a mix I make for someone at some point.
Here are the tracks:
the Fall - L.A.
Liars - We Live NE of Compton
Fire Engines - Jaqueline
the Clash - Spanish Bombs
Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence
New Order - Round and Round

And now for explanations. (Why are these songs so awesome!?)

The Fall is ridiculous. How in the hell does a guy who looks like Mark E. Smith (that's to say, someone who looks like he could be a grandfather, and has for his entire life) make songs that have pop appeal!? While the songs tend to be sort of out there, occasionally political, always weird, and usually difficult to understand, they have a pop aesthetic about them. Smith is damn good at writing hooks and make appealing-sounding songs, which is cool! It's not every day that an avant garde artist makes music that could appeal to the masses, applied appropriately.

Yeah, you're all tired of hearing 'bout Liars, I know. But this track, from They Threw Us In A Ditch ... , is interesting in particular since it seems to sort of imply that the group would get all into drum circles and witch hunts and living in Berlin and stuff. The song is definitely "dance-punk," but check out that drumming! We should have seen it coming!

Fire Engines is getting some attention now. Seen as a[nother] predecessor to Franz Ferdinand, the group is credited with perfecting that angular guitar sound that so many "post-punk" groups of today utilize. But this song is cool -- taken from a recent split 7" that the group recorded with Franz Ferdinand ... their cover of "Jaqueline." Weird.

"Spanish Bombs" may be my favorite song by the Clash. Granted, it's the most "straight forward" Clash song I've heard (no reggae in this one ... no sax ... just guitars and bass and drums). But it's a perfect pop song, to me. Therefore I love it.

Depeche Mode is not one of the favorite bands (okay -- that's a weird thing to say). I just don't like them all that much. I get what they're going for after listening to the first track or two from every album. But "Enjoy the Silence" is amazing. Their best song. Ever. Period.

I love New Order. My love for them comes from my love for the bass. I love to hear a nice thump-da-thump every once in a while ... a nice, fat bassline (and I'm not talking about like, gansta rap here ... I mean a real bass). And New Order's Peter Hook is so damn good at it. He plays the bass so friggin' high, it blows my mind every time I hear it. "Round and Round" is, unfortunately, an overlooked track from the overlooked album Technique. The album was made at the height of their cocaine use and the height of their popularity as a rave band (they owned the bloody Hacienda ... go figure). But "Round and Round" has an amazing bassline. It should not have been overlooked. Listen to this bizarre version of the song from one of New Order's "best" comps ... the bass has been like, completely omitted! Round and Round.
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Weekly: Honky Tonk Pirate Croquette

king of france
Okay -- now for new stuff.
But just a bit of it. I'm outta here in a sec ...
While I'm still not much of a Japanese music fan, I do keep up with new stuff. Especially from my favorite labels, Second Royal and Escalator Records. Those two labels, Second Royal in particular, are fronting this new Japanese music scene. Style? I still have no idea what the hell these guys are playing. Their influences literally are coming from hundreds of sources, but what makes this even more confusing and impressive is the fact that they do it so seamlessly. Second Royal's "secret weapon," Collette, is an excellent example of this. Just listen to these two songs, The Love Song Never Sung and Daybreak. I don't get it. "The Love Song Never Sung" is all funk and what? like kids' choir? And then there's like, electronica and lo-fi dance, and ... I just don't get how these Japanese dudes do it!
The King Of France has made me love cute pop/rock all over again. Yeah, I know, I was saying just a few months ago how I've grown tired of this sort of thing. Since everyone, it seems, can write a good hook or two and throw 'em in a single, what makes hooks so impressive? And what makes power-pop and pop/rock music in general so great, then, since they sort of uh, depend on "good hooks"? But the King Of France are weirder; quirkier ... (next I'm gonna be saying, "if everyone is able to be weird and quirky, what makes being weird and quirky such a positive thing?")
Listen to Mexico and White Confection.
And I can't resist. But Pretty Girls Make Graves are coming out with a new record, so I decided I'd do the "illegal" and share some of the leak ...
The album, Elan Vital, is stronger, vocally, than their previous efforts, and it's certainly more diverse. I don't know if that's a good thing, though. The record is less intense. It's like the band got all happy, but is trying to still make their gothy, dance-inspired rock. I like all their organ stuff, though ...
Check out Domino.
And I'm right outta time.
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BiBaBiDi Mini Mix

I was about to do a Weekly, but you know what? It's a really nice day today in Kanonji ... I'm glad to have nice weather again. And because of my good mood, I decided to upload a bunch of old songs ... a BiBaBiDi "mini mix" if you will.
I'll explain some of this stuff after the links ...
Yellow Magic Orchestra - Behind the Mask
Altered Images - Happy Birthday
the Buzzcocks - Everybody's Happy Nowadays
the Cure - In Between Days
Bauhaus - Hair Of the Dog
Swell Maps - Let's Buy A Bridge
Young Marble Giants - Searching For Mr. Right
X - Johnny Hit and Run Pauline

Okay -- now for some explainin' ...

Right -- so I'm living in Kanonji, Japan right now. Why? you ask? Well, there were a few things that got me interested in Japan when I was a kid. The music is the first and foremost reason for my initial interest in the country. J-Pop still beats the crap outta me, but I like old Japanese pop. I used to listen to a bizarre mix of like, Joy Division and Pizzicato Five and Plastics. For a while, I loved Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ryuichi Sakamoto's original group, more than anything. I listened to "Behind the Mask" on my dad's record player every day while prancing around the living room. Yeah -- it was weird. But that music was like, the soundtrack to my perceived Japan. It was all Bladrunner skylines and polluted air. And everyone listened to YMO at tiny little cramped clubs in Tokyo ... right?

Now, everyone loves Altered Images. For a few reasons: impeccable production, striking vocals, and an awesome cross between the aesthetics of post-punk (those drums! those guitars!) and early bubblegum pop. So that's why I've got "Happy Birthday" on this mix ...

And everyone loves the Buzzcocks, and they've been written about too much, so I'll skip the reasons why they're "so cool." I just thought they fit in well with the "Happy Birthday" song ...

The "perfect pop song" is probably not out there. It won't be made. That song would have to meet too many people's musical expectations, and a song that strikes the dead center of those expectations ain't perfect at all. But to me at least, the Cure's "In Between Days" is a "perfect pop song." It has a real grabber of an intro, it's in a key that implies melancholy and love, which people like, but it's uplifting and exciting. Perfectly produced, perfectly played, and of a perfect length. Okay -- maybe too short. I listened to this song too much while in Germany, and have yet to get tired of it. It's been on at least five previous mixes of mine, too. I love this song.

I actually can't remember why I added Bauhaus to this mix. I like them. I don't really think they're "goth," though. I think people who say that are wrong. I don't think Siouxsie is "goth," either, though. I always thought of gothic music as being played by people that dye their hair jet black, smoke black cigarettes, drink black water, don't speak, and sleep, hanging from the ceiling like a bat. I was always mildly creeped out by Bauhaus, but they -- to my knowledge -- do not sleep like bats or smoke black cigarettes. Therefore, they are not "goth."

One of the most important things that the Swell Maps contributed to was the compilation, Wanna Buy A Bridge?, released in 1980. That was a really cool comp that brought together people that were not first generation punk, that weren't post-punk, really, but were still inspired by it in some way. Swell Maps, in my mind, is not a post-punk band, but they took that energy of punk and made it into something new, anyway. Something crazier, and shorter-lived, yes, but something new all the same. I thought "Let's Buy A Bridge" paid good tribute to them.

I don't like Young Marble Giants all that much. I like the vocals and I like the rumble of that bass. I kind of like how they sometime used organs. The group seems like a good "mix tape" band ... a group that does good at making sparse songs, perfect for filling in gaps. Their music is filler, but intentionally so. That's why they're cool. It's not really "good filler," it's just filler made for the purpose of being filler. So they sound the most deliberately sparse of any band I've heard.

X was such a damn good band. They were unlike any of those other California punk groups. They were the XTC of California punk. Really smart, musically (yeah -- the Dead Kennedy's were really smart, but mostly for their political statements). They sang like, really well, and they had great chops, too. Listen to that guitar playing! Man ... those guys were awesome.
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Weekly: Yeah, I Know

I'll admit that I've had chances in the previous two weeks or so to post again. I didn't do it, though. Not sure why ... but here I am, anyway, to inform you all about a few bands I've been listening to recently.
Lake Of Dracula is noise rock, and therefore a band that I find hard to classify as "good" or "bad." I don't even know if I like them ... noise rock simultaneously confuses and impresses me, and that how I feel when I hear Lake Of Dracula's "vicious, angular guitar and obtuse, howling vocals over propulsive, throbbing dance beats in an unprecedented melange of excitement and alienation!"
Listen to Plague of Frogs(.mp2) and Henry Clay. Be perplexed.
Mit is also confusing to me. Although this time it's not just for being noisy ... they sing in German (because they're like, from Germany ... ) and that blows my mind even more. They're a simple band ... just moog, bass, and vocals. They're all spazzy and sort of creep me out with their retard DEVO-meets-DFA sort of style. Listen to Goodbook and Deine Eltern. Weird dudes (and one girl?) ...
Now, Birdmonster is a bit different, and certainly less looney. They're certainly loud and energetic, but they have two really cool things goin' for them: good, thumping bass and a spontaneity unlike any I've heard in a band before. You listen to their stuff and you're like, "hey -- this sounds like something I know" one second, but then you've changed your mind the next, and then again, and again, and again ... they're songwriting sort of leaves you hanging at every turn. You don't know where they're going (although they give you an idea, which they usually don't play out), and you don't know when it will end (although they deliver lots of false crescendos and climaxes). Listen to Resurrection Song.
Snowden sounds like a band that I should have heard about before. Neat-o music, equally inspired by like, Radiohead and other glum melody makers, and post-punk proteges like the Cure and the electronic, reverb edge of New Order. I especially like their singer, who has this very chilling, drawn out voice. And what!? they have they're whole EP and a 7" up for grabs on their site!?
Snowden EP
Victim Card
Good News
Chin Up
Kill the Power
Come Around
Anybody Else
Black Eyes 7"
Black Eyes

I am drawn to Ester Drang for their uber-cool blend of like, "smart" pop bands, like XTC, and shoe-gaze stuff, like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. There is something slow and calming about their music, but poppy and exciting ... tempo changes, vocal loops, awesome harmonies, and really cool swirly guitars. Listen to Velencia's Dying Dream, Dead Man's Point of View, and Come Back Alive
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Vibrations 19.3

These Vibrations and Weekly posts have been getting progressively "better," I think. That is, since I'm forced to sort through all this new music and stuff I read about, I really deliver "better" music than I used to, I think.
We'll start off with ... Hemstad. With a name like that, they've just gotta be from Scandinavia, right? They're actually from Sweden (I think), to be more precise, and they (a) don't sing because they lost their "ability to speak when we was [sic] twelve years old," and (b) consist of "five talented, sexy, vigorous, virile, exciting, adorable and sexy boys." I especially like their neat-o Swedish edgy design, but I also like their, uh ... music. Like Junior Senior, in that they're plenty of fun, but less obnoxious (sorry, Mr Junior, Mr Senior).
Hemstad - Patrik Sjöberg

is a four-piece based in Switzerland. Cool, huh? They're like a dark version of the Beach Boys, if the Beach Boys were more of a garage band. The vocalist sings like Paul Banks on fast forward or something. Very interesting.
Figurines - The Wonder
Figurines - Rivalry
Figurines - Divided By The Shore
Figurines - The Danger

Oh, cool! A Lawrence, Kansas band, White Whale. No -- honestly, for such a cool little college town, there should be more cool little indie bands comin' out of it! White Whale is a sort of experimental pop group ... accessible, but aloof (reverb? drumming style? wailing vocals? tinny keyboard?), and their singer reminds me of the guy from British Sea Power, a band I like quite a bit. Post-something-or-another, I'm sure ...
White Whale - What's An Ocean For?

Knife Skills' publicity shots remind me so much of something that Buffalo Daughter would have taken. The pictures were taken shortly after the threesome was released from a NYC mental institution they booked themselves into three years ago. Here's a good description of the group ...
Brooklyn band Knife Skills strike with nervy songs that feel like falling into a hidden pit in the jungle floor filled with sharpened stakes. While the daylight fades, you lay bleeding, your brow beads with malaria sweat, and the animals grow louder -- this could be your soundtrack.

Knife Skills - Debt to Evil (unmastered)
Knife Skills - Dr. Evil (unmastered)

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Weekly: Wish I Could

they shoot horses
You wanna know the bummer thing about blogging? It's this phenomena which everyone has latched onto, while simultaneously saying that it's an oversaturated medium. Too many bloggers is what everyone is saying. I'm just hoping that if I keep my chin up long enough, the other bloggers will all die and then I'll be the only one left and that will make me feel good.
Ah, ain't gonna happen.
I Am Robot And Proud has always been sort of cool. Definitely a little ahead of his time, too ... Shaw-Han Liem creates some of the most compelling electronic pop music I've ever heard. It's cheery, but depressed, meditative yet energetic. Crazy, huh? Mr Liem has release two records since he started back in 2000, and his newest album, The Electricity In Your House Wants To Sing, is due out later in March. You would think that by working with such a restrictive electronic palette, I Am Robot And Proud would have run out of ideas by now. Most of the songs are constructed with a similar songwriting aesthetic, making the creative process, from my perspective, a frustrating one. But there's something in this stuff that makes you want to always come back for more. Listen to The Electricity In Your House Wants To Sing to figure out what I mean.
I don't see how Pterodactyl can be classified as post-punk. I thought post-punk was like, what happened when guys who liked the idea of punk, but not necessarily the anger and style it encapsulated, wanted to make a band. What if DEVO was the first punk band? Then Pterodactly would be its Sex Pistols or something. These guys are (a) very angry, (b) make no sense at all, and (c) very noisy and still make no sense. Listen to I Can See A River.
Ha ha ... very funny. The Prix ... I get it. Okay, lame names disregarded, the Prix are actually kind of cool ... part indie-pop, part psychedelica, completely fun. You usually can't really dance to psychedelica stuff, but in the Prix's case, I would say that you can (although I have not yet tested this theory, as I would feel foolish dancing around my room at this moment). Listen to All In The Way You Trip, Top Ten, and Shoot Out The Lights.
A while ago, I wrote about They Shoot Horses, in regards to their self-titled EP. But since that post, the B.C.-based eight piece has signed to Kill Rock Stars and released an album, Boo Hoo Hoo Boo. The resulting record is pretty cool ... lots of screaming, bizarre, yet creative, percussion arrangements and rhythm synchronization, and plenty of cool instrumentation. They're so delightfully lo-fi, yet grand and that makes them super neato. Listen to Emptyhead.
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