Thursday, 18 May 2017

Gutters - Skullscapes


Dan b.c (vocals) is a friend of mine but don't worry, he's not so close that I feel obliged to say good things about Skullscapes nor is his so far away that I can't be bothered, which is another way of saying YES I'm talking about it because I know him and NO, him being a friend isn't influencing what I'm about to say - 

Being unused to 'reviewing' Rock albums I'm in strange territory (strange but oh-so-familiar) - those lands of long ago - you know? Back when something in Rock (the Big '77 Intervention) made it interesting again although from that we have to fast forward just a year or two to find something of what's going on here, like PiL - I say 'like PiL because they're what I hear stalking a lot of Skullscapes - in the bass and guitar - but you'll be pleased (I was) to know that Dan isn't attempting any Lydonesque vocals (who would dare?). Dan's what makes this a Gutters album rather than a PiL tribute, which is not to say, I stress, that it's totally derivative and besides, what's wrong with wearing influences on your sleeve, especially when they're choice ones? Dan's a poet first but channelling his words through the noise of drums, bass and guitar wasn't a bad move at all. Having to edit, cut, shape poetry to suit segments of sound should be compulsory for all poets - it'd teach them to cut out the waffle, the listen-to-me-because-I'm-a-poet self-reverential crap so many poets indulge in. 

In the tradition of song which demands a chorus or 'hook' Dan repeats lines - 'Electrostatic repetition' - 'Whitechapel!' etc but that's OK, what he says in the verse is worth listening to, whether the subject be London (ah, the city life) or Facebook or the art scene audience - Dan's that kind of lyricist, you know, the sometimes ambiguous kind that might make you wonder exactly what he's talking about without lapsing into stream-of-consciousness verbals and isn't mystery good? Car Psyche is a good example - it struck me when I saw them play it 'live' last year and I must say that you should see them 'live' when they next play - 'Get out of the car, get back in the car' - the car as metaphor for all forms of social confinement/entrapment? Or simply an ecological point about our seeming obsession with cars? 

What did Wire once say in their musical manifesto about 'no solos' 'no blues'? None of that here either - so if the starting point is somewhere in '79, Skullscapes doesn't come on as 'aged' for your nostalgic delight; it's fresher than that thanks to the kind of 'raw power' only those with a devil-may-care attitude can muster. Gutters care, but not in the same way as wannabe careerist Rockers do. If Skullscapes isn't anything like a 'perfect' debut, see that as an essential aspect of being free from such notions as sterile, precise (lifeless) music. 




Saturday, 13 May 2017

Eric Dolphy / Status Seeking (oh yes, it's a material world)


Self-portrait


Album Of The Day: The Quest by Mal Waldron - with Eric Dolphy (alto sax, clarinet); Booker Ervin (tenor sax); Ron Carter (cello); Joe Benjamin (bass); Charles Persip (drums) I need hardly tell you it's sheer quality and in fact, should you know your Jazz, needn't say a thing. Just that: has it ever struck you how insane/insanely brilliant Eric Dolphy was? The way he flies into Status Seeking like Charlie 'Bird' Parker busting out of Camarillo State Hospital having set fire to the beds before burning everyone's brains by blowing unbelievably...on speed/x10 or, as Miles Davis said of Dolphy, like someone was standing on his foot (ouch).


Recorded two years after the 1959 publication of Vance Packard's book...from which he probably got the title idea...


...the track suggests not only the pace of urban American life but the psycho-frantic state of mind in pursuit of social status - 'post-business school material man seeks nuclear family with whom to share the American Dream'. Yet Eric Dolphy and his sound was both the antithesis of stable normality (default success setting) and the epitome of CIA-backed/sanctioned 'freedom' in opposition to Commie social confinement. The Cold War there, whilst in the streets things were hotting up for black America (Don't even march quietly, niggah! Just stay at the back of the bus and in your own damned dining area!).  

Or as Skull Snaps put it on their classic Funk tune from '73:
'Don’t make a fuss. (what you gonna do)
Just step, To the back of the bus.'




Best we all know our place in society - well, what are you going to do? Let's see: look around at the things people have and want what's missing from your life (bigger house, car etc), envy the successful artist and want it for yourself, envy the intellect of others (read more and try). And on. All around people with more than you - the bastards! Or be proud of what you are and have (assuming you're not down and out). You need wings just to keep above all the shit, to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg. The shit, that is, that threatens to render you a low-status social failure! 

TTFN

Friday, 12 May 2017

Timglaset Magazine / Source Direct




A reminder that the magazine Timglaset no.5, Disappearances, is available from the publisher's site. My art book is there too, of course. Directly sourcing such publications from the publisher is the only way you're likely to get copies in the UK. Despite London being my home, getting anyone to stock small press isn't easy. Only the bookartbookshop regularly, enthusiastically offers shelf space to small, indie publishers, which makes it a very special shop. Meanwhile, here are Source Direct with a 'killer' from '96...


Thursday, 11 May 2017

William Burroughs' Music List and Premier League Star Thelonious Monk



Reading Oliver Harris' notes to William Burroughs' The Ticket That Exploded (The Restored Text) this morning I came across the above list from the New York Public Library collection of Burroughs papers; song titles and lyrics he thought worthy of writing down for possible use. Seeing a a couple of Thelonious Monk tunes in there (Bemsha Swing and Blue Monk) made me want to hear some Monk. Before I did my thoughts turned to Jazz players and not for the first time the place of players in a league table, but not actual place, just leagues. Stupid, I know.

I pictured the Premier League and if you know your Jazz you can guess who's in there. Unlike football leagues, these ones don't have roughly the same amount of members. The Championship (next league down) for instance, would be big, but not as big as the Premier League. It doesn't seem possible, at first, that anyone could get promoted or relegated, but then, my taste changes over the years. Regarding jazz, that's less a matter of 'taste', but increased appreciation in most cases. Is that the same thing? John Coltrane's later material, for instance, has been 'relegated' over the years. To where? The Championship, of course. These days I much prefer his Atlantic and early Impulse stuff. It's criminal to even consider relegating any Coltrane to some people, never mind his totally Out There recordings, but excuse me for having a personal preference. There were many very good players in Jazz and they fill The Championship. These days I'm much more fussy about what I listen to and even Very Good stuff doesn't get much of a look-in when it's competing with Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington et al.

Thelonious Monk is a Premier League star, despite/because of his relatively short golden age and erratic nature, which made him Monk. Everything else that warrants his inclusion is evident in Bemsha Swing from Thelonious Monk Trio (1954). I won't try to convince you of its merits. It would be akin to explaining why a mountain is amazing. Listening again today though I was struck by Max Roach's drumming. As befits the Be-Bop master, he not only drives the tune but near the two-minute mark starts to shower it with percussive salvos rather than simply solo. All without overpowering the tune or Monk's playing.



Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Various Artists - Electroacoustic Music in Latin America / Coming Self-destruction of the U.S.A. by Alan Seymour



Electroacoustic music in Latin America is not something I've ever considered but such is the wonder of the inter-connectednetwerk headspace we find ourselves imprisoned in that I discovered a compilation of it this morning and through the medium of digitul trickery hereby pass it on because from what I've heard there are some very good examples of electroacoustic music being made in Latin America. Why shouldn't there be? Why should the French, Germans and, OK, the Americans and British etc etc dominate such things. They do not, of course, for as sure as Chelsea will win the league, someone will soon compile a collection of electroacoustic music from a country you only think you've heard of whilst skipping the outer reaches of the TV channels, passing through a documentary about the extraordinary wildlife of -----------------. The track below is as fine an example of locked-groovedustacoustica as I've ever heard. Elsewhere there is great diversity in approach to what is a vast genre in itself, the boundaries of which are blurred but this compilation is very worthwhile and demonstrates that fact admirably.





The best time to post this book would have been when Trump was elected, of course, but I didn't own it then. Besides, there are enough people prophesying 'the coming self-destruction of the U.S.A.' without me doing so and I'm not American, which doesn't prevent me from predicting doom, I know. When it was published (1969) the combination of the Vietnam war, student shootings, civil unrest and Ray Stevens' novelty hit Gitarzan were enough to make people feel the country was on the eve of (self) destruction, I imagine. No surprise then that Alan Seymour should fictionalise it. I looked for a photo of this edition on the internet but couldn't find it so here's my copy. 



Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Counterculture Graphic Art / Timglaset 5



The idea of 'media burn' is nothing new, as you can see from the above spread, art work dated 1969. Whereby the medium was once the message in an info-neural-transformative sense (positive) by the end of the decade media saturation was an illness, a plague on propaganda-prone brains. So it was since the mass home invasion by TV sets but it took a while for the idea to sink in once the novelty of armchair entertainment made way for prime time domestic horror show Vietnam war broadcasts and party political persuasion techniques. Enter the underground press as alternative broadcast news. 200 Trips from the Counterculture: Graphics and Stories from the Underground Press Syndicate is a fine collection of graphics from the era.



Whilst today's underground press productions blossom into a million variations on those 60s roots, so many that, as befits our media burn age, it's impossible to keep up with them all, one that's worth noting is Timglaset, out of Sweden. The fact that some of the text is in Swedish shouldn't deter the English-only speakers amongst you, if only because by not purchasing a copy you would miss out on writing by Dolly Dolly along with art by Paul Tone. You get 48 pages for 8 euros (inc p&p). Buy it here.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Nag's Head - Gluud Und Scruud / Live From Concrete Island



Catching up with a release from 2016, it's good to hear that Stephen Maskell's keeping the spirit of eclecticism alive on Gluud Und Scruud for Kit Records - a road rage tape and other samples litter the album, along with all manner of beats and approaches to sound from noise to ambient, no easy feat to manage without sounding 'all over the place' - but then - perhaps there's nothing wrong with that either. As with visual artists, musical ones tend to find a style and stick with it either through lack of exploratory thinking or having hit on a popular formula. Maskell as The Nag's Head is obviously interested in many different types of sound, so we get pounding beat minimalism on Tar and heavy distortion on Road. At times rave seems to leak through, but getting hold of every influence is devilishly hard on an album packed with them.
 

His Live From Concrete Island, Kit's first release, has just been reissued. It's as wide-ranging and successful as Gluud Und Scruud. It also features, on You Can't Make an Omelette Without Breaking a Few Eggs, the melody of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, coincidentally or not I have no idea. Lastly, if you're British, you've got to enjoy and appreciate anyone who name's themselves after a pub.



Maskell has a new album out soon. Keep an eye on Kit Records.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Salford Electronics - Communique 2


I feel the same way about Bananarama reforming as you probably do about Donald Trump. At least if he starts WW3 and it escalates to nuclear proportions they won't survive either - a thought I shall carry with me to my (non-existent) grave should The End happen that way...


Getting The Fear - don't you feel it? Because the world's in such a terrible state, unlike previous times when it has been stable/peaceful/reassuring politically and culturally (remember those good ol' days? No?) there's no better time than to indulge in more sonic darkness/grunge/doom catastrofuck musik than now so here are Salford Electronics, reassuring those who enjoy their ears being filled with intense mood atmospheres that someone else feels the same way although, one must acknowledge the possibility that Salford Electronics are incredibly content with their lives (or life, I don't know how many of them there are), employed, decently paid, housed well enough and can afford Sainsbury's Taste The Difference range in biscuits. Communique 2 is a perfect Interzone eternal night noise or neon rain-soaked stalker science fiction vibrations for would-be blade runners.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Sun Ra - Thunder Of The Gods



'Another world, another world, another w-o-o-o-r-r-ld!' cries June Tyson. Abstract dreams are what Sun Ra's music comprises of, mostly, those and concrete manifestations of the big band tradition; yet it is the abstract that defines him and although his synth solo on Calling Planet Earth - We'll Wait For You may be the stuff of nightmares for the sensitive stupid cloth-eared less open-minded listener it is stunning to behold - truly - in fact the whole track is a masterpiece of prime Sun Ra 'live', this solo alone sets the heart racing, such is it's ferocity - Ra's total velocity - to the planet Venus and beyond! Everything is here - brilliant horn solos, that synth, June Tyson...and as it tails off with in a sombre mode it's as if the earth weeps at the prospect of his inevitable departure. Thanks to Modern Harmonic we can hear previously unreleased evidence of the Arkestra's full creative force. 

The two remaining tracks from the Strange Strings session, which Sun Ra called 'a study in ignorance' because none of the band knew how to play what was handed to them. The original record has since become legendary, almost defying belief whilst exemplifying the outward bound approach of The Man. I can't help thinking of Ornette Coleman's approach to violin-playing whenever I listen - this idea of 'I will play it my way, not the 'proper way' - so there is much string-scraping and plucking, as we hear the players finding out what sounds they can make. Mingus said Jazz was the sound of surprise, well, if it's long-since ceased to be that, in Sun Ra it is, at least, the sound of an ongoing journey of discovery.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Album: Early Hominids - "040117"


'The immediate ancestors of humans were members of the genus Australopithecus. The australopithecines (or australopiths) were intermediate between apes and people. Both australopithecines and humans are biologically similar enough to be classified as members of the same biological tribe--the Hominini. All people, past and present, along with the australopithecines are hominins. We share in common not only the fact that we evolved from the same ape ancestors in Africa but that both genera are habitually bipedal, or two-footed, upright walkers. By comparison, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas are primarily quadrupedal, or four-footed.'

Hominins Neil Campbell and Paul Walsh may be people, but on 040117 it is quite possible to imagine they are machines, tormented machines. What troubles the machines? We can only guess. Small electronic generators + fx transmit 'messages' from Campbell and Walsh in a darkened room, for around three hours, but who is controlling who and to what extent does the 'third mind' play a part? If these transmissions actually reflect the mental states of the duo, they should be examined. Thankfully, I don't think they do. In this purely improvisational zone anything can happen; at times, it's as if three minds and the machines have synced briefly before shooting off into each other's private realm, to connect, disconnect. If it is 'uneasy' listening it is because Early Hominids have no inclination toward making concessions. In this sense, it is a pure sound. Indulgent, you might say, but what is special about any creative act if it is not one of sheer indulgence by the artist? This very limited release is available here for just £4 and as a bonus you get exceptional, randomly chosen, artwork by Paul Walsh on the cover.

A taste of them 'live'...

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Album: NOCHEXXX- Planet Bangs


As tensions mount on the macho my-weapons-are-bigger-than-yours world stage it's fitting that I should present Planet Bangs by Nochexx. Better late than never since this came out in February and has been idling in my bookmarks since, but playing it today I realised (again) what a storming album it is by Dave Henson. Despite what the main title suggests the tracks aren't of a cosmo-interplanetary-sci-nature in name; instead, there are two called Lewisham. Yes, Lewisham. Perhaps Henson lives there and simply wishes/dreams it was as futuristic as the music suggests. Or it's a joke. The music's no joke. As before Henson maintains a superior standard when it comes to sensory derangement in rhythmic machinations. Lewisham part one alone is a magnificent feat of collaged explosions but bombs in the forms of either bass lines or beats detonate everywhere on this turbulent, brutal but deftly designed collection.



Thursday, 6 April 2017

Old-Skool USB Transmission & Vintage Futurist Techno



I've gone back in time to being plugged-in - yeah - that's me, old skool - the wireless keyboard was so crap it put me off writing but now here I am singing, yes, singing through the keys of this cheap (£14.99) USB lead muthafucking keyboard - ha! ha! Take that progressives!
(which is not to say I'm so dumb as to think there are no great wireless keyboards available, which I will probably have to get when LJ comes home and says "Ugh! What's that big black thing?!")

I went in the cafe the other day and says to the lady in there "Tuesdays, eh?" It was quiet in there, it always is, she said. We silently acknowledged the deadness of this particular Tuesday on which we both felt subdued. "Tuesdays..." I went on. "They're not Mondays...or Wednesdays." At which point she looked at me as if I was mad before taking the money for the cappuccino. I sensed she didn't understand me. I don't understand me half the time, so I went outside to a table.

Two days later and, surprise-surprise, it's Thursday. I'd love to tell you all the exciting things that have happened since Tuesday...so let me think...

.........................(me..............thinking...........)..............

Some kids threw an egg at the window on Tuesday afternoon - scared the life out of me. I sat transfixed by the sight of the yolk running down the pane before jumping up, grabbing the keys and going out onto the street, which was devoid of kids. But what would I have done if I'd have caught them? I'd like to have cracked eggs over their heads but they would probably have beaten me up, so it was for the best, really.

If not exactly exciting, there's a great new/old EP I found yesterday by Der Zyklus called Renormalon, which has that super-clean techno-perfect sound which seems at odds with what is current about electronic music in the sense that so much of it likes to roll around in filth and get dragged along a dirt road before being presented. What I like about this is that it reminds me of old sci-fi films in which the future was always shiny (usually silver) and spotless. Whatever, this is great stuff...




Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Album: FRANCISCO MEIRINO & MIGUEL A. GARCÍA - Nonmenabsorbium


First classic electro-derangement from Swiss composer Francisco Meirino (Misantropic Agenda, Entr'acte, Antifrost) the Basque country’s Miguel A. Garcia aka Xedh (Crónica, Idealstate) - the perfect accompaniment for some picture-making this afternoon...an ideal soundtrack to images I've been working with, such as this...


More pictures over here

Noise often plain annoys me but Nonmenabsorbium permeates my lugholes in a pleasing manner and as fans of the genre will tell you there's much more to 'it' than you think, than I think, than one may think when first repulsed by the apparently pointless torturing of machines and, more to the point, listeners such as myself who, in a terribly old-fashioned way ultimately prefers some refinement and sophistication in their non-melodic/rhythmic sounds as provided by legends such as the you-know-whos of great historical significance from France, Germany the USA and elsewhere although, I admit, it's unfair to compare all contemporary electronic sound to The Classics therefore I shan't, in this case especially since it speaks for itself, can stand up for itself in a fight against Them, probably, such is the sublime aesthetic of this album and as I speak, listening to Abholicater, the astute use of what sounds like the ghost of Pierre Schaeffer's train being shunted from the 40s into the present is but one of the joys of this particular collection of noise-not-noises.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Classics, Old-Time Jazz Religion and New Victuals





I only listen to old stuff

Currently, on this morning of April 1st, Andres Lewin-Richter's Space Electronics album for CAM...


...it's sublimely austere electronic sounds still resonate as prime examples of how less can be more; the joy of electro-primitivism.

I don't only listen to old stuff, as regular visitors will know, but the Old Stuff question came to mind as I cycled home from Work the other day, contemplating Jazz, specifically. It's not unusual for me to contemplate Jazz but it was a subject of speculation principally because of jokes exchanged on Facebook with a friend who can't stand it....

...I'm not here today to defend Jazz. For my thoughts on the genre from the post-WW2 to mid-70s period, there's my book. Yes, currently at a ridiculous price, I know, but it does crop up for much less than that now and again.

Gimme That Old-Time Religion

The Art Ensemble of Chicago playfully referenced religion and the 'old-time' tradition on their 1969 album, Message To Our Folks...


...I confess that Jazz was a religion once upon a time in my life. I enjoyed seeing new 'live' bands, but even after the learning stage (which lasted a good three or four years, being pre-internet days when research took longer) that old-time religious Jazz canon was always what excited me the most. 

I cannot say that it's impossible to compete with the 'classics' of any art form. I may have said that once upon a time. I may have said a lot of stupid things. Haven't you? The arts are not a competition, despite the pressures to make them just that as applied by the capitalist marketplace model of consumerism and 'success'. Within the wide parameters of any creative mode the most an artist can hope to do is make her/his own version which contains enough of themselves, their vision, to add distinction to a piece.

Apologies for stating the obvious. We need to remind ourselves of these things sometimes.



Talking of old/new dreams, contemporary and classic forms, from an example of great library music via Space Electronics, let's move to Leyden Jars' Victuals album for Mordant Music. My initial response was lukewarm, but now I feel a glow of satisfaction with each listen. What makes something work? We may ponder this, even when the answers are obvious. In some cases, a radical new approach, in others, the application of skill or natural talent. Victuals is all understatement in the manner of H****ology, with few of the cliches. Natalie Williams and Mark Courtney are smart enough to have created an interesting sonic climate throughout, one of muted patterns and engaging detail. As happens these days, the idea of nostalgia for past dance areas is alluded to on Where The Dancehall Used To Be, except in that title there could be other references; dancehalls of old in the mode of The Caretaker? Dancehalls in villages where local discos were held? Either way, Leyden Jars blend the hushed electric tones with enough subtle sub-bass to form a brilliantly suggestive echo-chamber of whatever memory you choose. There's much that's of interest on Victuals, not least the inclusion of a baritone saxophone on Sawn Off, played naively, as if tentatively practising a simple riff, yet it's totally effective in adding an extra dimension.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Is Your Mind Your Own?



'My own I am at all times and under all circumstances, if I know how to possess myself and do not throw myself away on others.' - Max Stirner, The Ego and His Own

When I say I'm tired of Brexit do I really mean it?
Yes.
"But surely you can't be 'tired' of something so important? Something that will alter the shape of Britain economically, socially and politically?"
I can.

Does an ant have a mind? I should Google that. Google answers everything. What's more, it weakens our belief in knowledge accumulated long ago to the point where we Google what we think we already know but need the machine to reassure us, just to be on the safe side.

I mention ants in relation to considering the idea that all or most other creatures, like me, inhabit the universe of their minds first and foremost. This strand of thought lead me to contemplate the mole rat too...


...does it have a mind? Surely not. I am stupid to even contemplate such things, I know.

'HE HAS A MIND OF HIS OWN'

A common expression, yes? Yet one with negative connotations, the suggestion being that to have a mind of one's own is to be stubborn, resistant to influence. The implication being that to not have a mind of one's own is to be well-behaved, perhaps; a good person who is open to...what? Suggestion? Propaganda? 

We were a few days into the news embargo when I started wondering what I had missed. LJ has never been bothered about watching the news on TV. I used to think that was not wise. Now I believe she was right all along. Yet I cannot escape the news. I have, instead, reduced it to a minimum, namely; headlines on the internet when I visit sites such as the BBC or The Guardian. That is quite enough. In this respect, perhaps I have become the kind of modern person I never want to be. That is, the rapid surfer of information, seeing only signals without reading the messages in any depth.

It is almost impossible to avoid the news. I am old enough to remember a time when the news was watched, or read and not seen again. Today, the news is all day every day and users of the internet cannot help but see it, if not through their own choosing, then via shared broadcasts by friends on the social network. 

We are all broadcasters now.

Information is power that has replaced the brawn or brain that ensured survival and respect gained by our ancient ancestors. They used brute strength or knowledge of good hunting grounds. Today we pass on packets of information in order to prove our worth. Someone was early in spreading the news that David Bowie had died. That scored points, even if only on his or her personal card. Someone else was early in posting a news report, either political or tragic. More points. 

To be British and declare a lack of interest in Brexit is sinful in the eyes of many. How can that be possible? It's akin to not voting in the general election! More than that, it suggests a form of...stupidity? One must be politically aware. Knowledge is power! But is it? If I know what the government is doing, will that affect who I vote for next? In other words, if I should disagree with new laws must I vote for another party despite not believing in their ideology either? Should I, in other words, simply swap one set of laws for an equally distasteful one? Let us count the sins of all parties then, weigh them against each other and then decide, shall we? Must we?

I had no intention of discussing party politics. Soon, when the TV news embargo has run for months, I shall be even more unqualified to comment than I am already, except to make general declarations relating to my overriding cynicism. Still, it is said that 'experts' are out of favour. In this respect, I am riding the wave of popular ignorance.

Bees have a 'hive mind'. People do too, it seems. They have several types of hive mind, all battling for supremacy, unlike the bees, whose collective 'thinking' ensures their survival. We, meanwhile, deploy our thinking as a weapon. The news people spoke of a 'divided nation' after the Brexit vote and Trump's election. This is typical media-speak. It wilfully denies reality in favour attention-grabbing, sensationalist headlines. America and Britain have always been divided, between black and white, rich and poor, Democrat, Republican, Left and Right. 

  
'My own I am at all times'...not an easy claim to make or maintain. We are pressured to conform, even by supposed non-conformists. What could be more sickening than the sight and sound of a 'rebel' or 'radical' browbeating others into thinking the same way? Yet to try to be 'your own person' (as opposed to somebody else's) does rile some people. It strikes them as arrogant, perhaps. Worse still, arrogant and ignorant of the all-important facts as delivered by either fellow hive members or the media.

With that, I shall sign-off,
Yours, In Blissful Ignorance

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