August 7, 2007

B12 - Practopia / Slope

UK duo B12 (Mike Golding and Steve Rutter) were a prime mover in Warp’s Artificial Intelligence movement in the early ’90s alongside acts like Richard James’ Polygon Window, Black Dog Productions, and Autechre. 1993’s Electro-Soma was their definitive statement. Fusing lush European sounds with Detroit-derived rhythms to great effect, it was fathoms deep and foot-tapping all at once. The five-track Practopia dates from 1996 and is just now getting a proper release (the original only made it to white label at the time), but still sounds like it sprung from some sleek Blade Runner-like futuristic society. Much like Kraftwerk’s timeless style, the classic melodic lines, Derrick May-inspired rhythms and sense of…space…place it firmly in the retrofuturist mold. The infamous cover of the original Artificial Intelligence comp features a robot chilling out in an easy chair with headphones on. This could easily have been what it was listening to.

The newly recorded Slope three-tracker, cut from the same template of sounds, is an altogether more bouncing and aggresive affair, built more on layered percussive elements than drifting keys and ambient washes. It’s good stuff and still distinctive, but lands closer to the Plus 8 sound than the original B12 recipe. The robot just might leave its chair for this one.

B12 / B1215 / B1216
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[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


April 26, 2007

Para One - Midnight Swim

Curiouser and curiouser. It never ceases to amaze me how t(r)endencies in dance music collide, mutate, and spawn new monsters. If one of the key refrains of producers (against music journalists) is that we keep on pigeonholing them against their will, then the reply should be a demand for some sympathyhow else are we to get a handle on all this flux? This EP is so thoroughly under the influences that it staggerstheres crunk, hip-hop, house (bouncy French, disco, micro, electro, whore), plus nods to rave, all packaged with lashings of snappy pop.

First listen reminded me of my mother, telling me that Big Black was headache music. I didnt think Songs About Fucking was, but this EP is colorful like a mouthful of gummies, high like your surging blood sugar, and sickly like your stomach after the binge is over. The original has got the cut, paste, and bounce of Akufens old classics like Deck the House and Quebec Nightclub. The problem with the track (to these ears at least) is the minor-key string sample over the top of the mix, which abrades the party below.

Ritons mix is the bermanic wedding of the originals housey parts to full-bore synth-electro madness. Like Alter Egos remix of Partial Arts a few months back, if the kids in your club don’t dance to this, theyre dead. Thats not a threat, its a medical fact. The Drowning mix by Surkin continues with the cut and spazz, but this time is matched with sirens, rave atmospheres and big-room house ass. Headache music! (Dear god, Im turning into my mother.) Finally, Beckett and Taylor take their hands off the plow long enough to outclass their fellows with a mix that sounds surprisingly adult and sophisticated by comparison, while still keeping things well hectic.

It feels odd to praise an EP I have difficulty listening to from start to finish, but this is exemplary, and if youre a working gal (in the DJ sense) this is a warhorse for the whore-house.

Naive France / Institubes / NV 809166/ INS 12017
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[Peter Chambers]


April 26, 2007

Dominik Eulberg Limikolen

Released as a companion to techno-naturalist Dominik Eulbergs Heimische Gefilde full-length, Limikolen is a two-tracker that deserves to stand on its own merits. The A-side is taken by the non-LP Die Grunschenkel Im Blauen Priel, an 11-plus-minute track that builds on a driving rhythm track and a bouncing, repetitive, one-note riff that gently phases a bit as it grows more and less intense throughout the track, building to a climax at the 3:30 mark when it finally multiplies to the point where it simply overpowers everything else in the mix into submission. Then the rhythm starts up again and were off for another round, albeit with some different counter rhythms this time through. Its a pretty simple trick, but Eulberg is so deft with his construction and programming that youll hardly care.

The other track, Die Alpenstrandlufer von Spiekeroog, appears in an edit on the album, but the version here is the essential one, nearly doubled in length and really given room to build into its proper groove. The title refers to the dunlin from Speikeroog (a shorebird, FYI, and yes, I had to look it up) and the tracks melody does evoke a birdsong, just as the percussive noises that hit the mix at about the halfway point sound a bit like great metal flapping wings. The breathtaking moment comes at about 6:45 or so, when the bottom drops out, as the bird simply glides over everything, peering down at the busy world below heard in the percussion distant in the mix. Its a magic moment that is enjoyed even more when you know what Eulberg is on about.

Traum Schallplatten / TRAUM V84
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[Todd Hutlock]


April 3, 2007

Joakim - Lonely Hearts

Joakim’s latest for the French label Versatile combines a nicely hummable tune with some elegant and funky padding in three mixes plus an acapella. The extended remix by The Loving Hand (aka Tim from the DFA) is nice to bop along with but is ultimately conflicted with too many ideas: deep house, acid, or electro, please make up your mind! But this is well worth picking up for the Radio Edit and Dub mixes, which keep the chunky, early-80’s vibe intact and turn up the melancholic, yearning vocals. The Radio Edit is a rock-solid pop tune with post-punk trappings, while the Dub version is actually a dub mix for once, instead of a merely gussied-up instrumental. It sounds just perfect for a hastily-planned, sweaty basement party in Paris, or wherever you happen to be this weekend.

Versatile / VER051
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[Mallory ODonnell]


March 24, 2007

The Spectral Social @ the Clinton Hotel (WMC, Night Two)

Friday night seemed the perfect night to stay confined to Miami Beach, so we went back across the causeway, refreshed and re-upped and spent the rest of the night walking up and down the strip (strips, really). The beach is a monster with mythic aspirations, crawling with every form of beauty and degeneracy staking out its own space from which to confront the mundane. Its also the perfect place for Winter Music Conference to really sprawl out into the street as well - adding its own mix of nasty and nice to the cauldron.

When it comes to WMC on the beach, there seem to be two basic types of party- free / cheap ones that take over hotel lobbies and exclusive ones at the trendy-ass velvet-rope clubs (Nikki Beach, the Pearl, the Opium Garden, Cameo). When it comes to these latter parties, we quickly realized that a press pass or badge is more a hindrance than an advantage - after all, if we let you in, we cant get away with insisting on a two-bottle charge (where a bottle costs $200).

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At any rate, our first target was the Spectral Social @ the Clinton Hotel, featuring Matthew Dear, Ryan Elliot and Seth Troxler alternating, tag-teaming, corroborating and confounding each other to create an astonishingly seamless mix. I cant think of a time Ive ever seen more fun up in the DJ booth - the party seemed to emanate from the outrageous antics of the party-throwers, rather than the party-goers. The tracks thrown down by this six-limbed DJ defied the narrow view of Spectral as monochromatic minimalists with a bass fixation. The bass-heavy frenzy was there, all right, but there was plenty going on all across the (forgive me) spectrum. Extra points awarded for the girls who made up their own special dance, the Spectral Shimmy - cyclic rotations of the posterior to soak up extra bass and hand motions inspired by the rattling procession of the high end.

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From gutter to glitter - the low-key fun of Spectral gave way to our misguided attempt to go to Opium Garden for the Tony Humphries / Todd Terry / Blaze event. After a few minutes of standing around behind the velvet rope and observing the ratio of exchange (2 girls : 1 guy in a group to gain admittance, plus the usual necessary fabulosities), plus hearing the complaints of non badge-holders, plus hearing one badge-holder complain that theyd been there for hours, we decided to skip out on the Studio 54-wannabee bullshit and head further down. The same policy (with less interesting potential rewards) seemed to be offered by Nikki Beach & the Pearl, so we did what sensible human beings do. We went back to the gutter.

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Ocean, Collins and Washington offer a number of hotels with open-lounge, free-admission parties that rock until dawn (or close enough). One has to wonder what the actual tenants think of a bunch of freaks dancing on the stairway and in the lobby until 5 a.m.- or perhaps these rooms are only advertised amongst those for whom heavy, throbbing bass during their sleeping hours is something of a tonic. We did witness one middle-American family leaving their hotel room amidst typical beach insanity in the wee hours, tempting the headline : 4:15 A.M., South Beach : Wife Will Put Up With Bass No Longer

The Chesterfield, Chelsea and Marlin Hotels all had parties with varying sounds and degrees of success, with a bit of patio and sidewalk overflow (well, except the Chelsea, which was dead). And while it wasnt quite the dancing in the streets promised by Berlins Love Parade, there was definitely enough action to encourage me to think of coming back to the beach after todays Ultra action. Plus, there is promise of Spank Rock & the Rub later tonight

[Mallory O’Donnell]


March 24, 2007

Friday, Im in Line - Ultra Day One, WMC Day Two

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If Winter Music Conference just consisted of the two-day Ultra Festival and some post-midnight events at the dozens of clubs here, it would still exert massive pull as a killer weekend for dance music. As it stands, one could completely ignore Ultra and still have a fantastic time- which is more a positive reflection of the variety of events going on throughout the city than a disparagement of Ultra, which really does offer a pretty nice festival atmosphere for a comparatively reasonable price.

Still, if you were wanting to see the Cure, which we were, there was only one thing to do - go to Ultra Day One. Plus Day Two, which well depart for shortly, has an amazing line-up, including a bakers dozen of acts wed be skipping all across the city on various nights to see, perhaps at places where - like on Thursday - wed be confronted with a hiked-up headliner door charge. Oh, and the list provided via the link above is just a teaser. Click on Click Here for Additional Lineup to view the mind-boggling complete list of artists.

Since every flyer wed seen placed the Cures name atop everything else, and everyone weve spoken to seemed to rate them as the really desirable act to see this weekend, we assumed quite naturally that they would go on, umm, last. You know, like a headliner. As we pulled around the corner at 9-ish, however, I could hear a familiar pastyboy wailing over the traffic. OK, I figured as we disembarked from the cab, they must be playing a really long set and just got on. There was no end of flim-flam at the gate - first we were sent around the building to pick up a ticket no one so much as glanced at, then told no cameras were allowed despite watching the guy in front of us enter with his held right in his hand, then finally sent to the real real entrance for Press, otherwise known as walking into the exit rather than out of it, where we were waved through without being padded down or groped.

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By the time we made it out to the main stage, an Ultra staffer had informed us that the Cure had been on for two hours and this was their last song. Well, theyd been on for two hours, but it was their fifth last song, as they played two encores. Initial impressions suggested a return to spartan gloom - no keyboard player, the band stripped down to a black-clad quartet, stomping through grim versions of A Hundred Years from Pornography and A Forest. After a brief, surely non drug-related interlude, the band returned to the stage and belted out three paisley-period nuggets. Husky, rocked-up versions of Lets Go to Bed (including a tongue-incheek lyric change apropos of WMC - if you think youre tired now / wait until seven)and Close to Me made way for a startling Why Cant I Be You. Never one of my favorites, the thumping drums and synth-free arrangement here made ample room for the storming Motown beat to dominate the song to great effect.

By this time, however, it became clear who the real headliner was going to be, with festivalgoers unleashing snarky comments and chanting for Tiesto! during the last couple numbers. Sounds like our cue to leave

After a cursory glance around the festival grounds and the (lame) V.I.P. area, we met up with some friends and surveyed the carnage from a geodesic dome-sporting hill near the entrance. With two stages not even in use until Day 2, the place was still jam-packed. Fire-dancers and glow-sticks added to the confusion - was this 91 or 07? I though big raves were dead in America. Oh, right, just big raves that dont cost a couplea Ben Franks.

Four things we took away from Ultra:

1) If youve pre-bought any kind of ticket or pass, it will always be twice as confusing as just going up to the gate and paying whatever ungodly amount of money they want.

2) If you spend more than five minutes exhorting the crowd before actually starting to play your music, youre a cheerleader, not a bloody DJ.

3) If there is someone on the top and at the beginning of every single piece of internet or print information about a certain event, it does not mean they are the headliner.

4) Not having to hear Friday Im in Love is the only positive result of being screwed by thing #3.

[Mallory O’Donnell]


March 23, 2007

Spread the Love - Om Party @ Y Ultralounge (WMC, Night One)

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Om Party @ Y Ultra Lounge, Thursday Night:

First of all, the Y Ultra Lounge is huge. Its actually three clubs (plus a restaurant through a fenced-off lobby): Y Ultra Lounge (why? because we love you). Tottem and Tottem Gardens. Trying to find friends was a mistake. The only thing to do was ride the butter churn into the next room, and over the course of a an hour we began to establish a rough map of this labyrinth. Or so we thought - attempting to leave actually led us into the largest areas of the club, especially the great Tottem Gardens, which have a great Tiki Party vibe and plenty of space. Not to mention close access to the $3 hot dogs and $6 burgers. Im sure the drink prices were out-of-hand, but I didnt ask. Luckily, the crowd was thick as stew and the music was excellent. To be fair, I was a bit wary- while I love some of the artists on Om, their roster is large and diverse enough that some of it (like most any larger label) has slipped through the wack crack. Two artists, both new to me, that played during the time we were there hooked us in and wouldnt let go.

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First up was Bassnectar (yeah, I know). As we entered, chunky electro breaks slapped us right across the cheeks with bold, up-front basslines and pounding drums. A whip of hair thrashes over the DJ deck as a wiry figure bounces infectiously to the beat of his own drum. Bassnectar looks like somebody you might buy windowpane from outside the Phish concert (fittingly, he broke through at Burning Man). He sounds like someone from his own damn planet though - raw, bass-dominated tracks that draw from dub, electro, hip-hop, jungle, you name it, all re-edited and tweaked by himself, then burned to CDr. As a pan-cultural purveyor of bust-your-shit-open beats, Bassnectar delivered with enthusiastic elan.

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As we attempted to exit, we found ourselves in the fab Tottem Gardens - man-made streams, bridges, white fabric tents and the lingering aroma of hash competing with the heady scent of grilled pork. Edging through the crowd towards the dj booth, we were lulled in by a really suave and sensuous jazzy house record, only to find out that the bossa-style guitar draped over the beats was being played by an actual human being. It took a few shouted times to get his name right, but the name is Chuck Love (not Josh Love as I bemusedly first heard). Anyone who thinks so-called deep house is a dinosaur ought to check the man out. Over soulful, funky beats, he sings and plays guitar, flute, trumpet, and melodica (pictured above), Chuck Love makes some seriously funky and uplifting shit. The live-instrumentation is far from a gimmick- that and his boundless energy and positivity make him an artist worth watching, someone who brings the crowd somewhere and keeps them there. Ill accept and endorse Om despite a million crap compilations if they keep unearthing gems like Chuck Love. Who, of course, was followed by Collette. Who I predicted would be entertaining for precisely five minutes. I was about two minutes off:

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The only genuine disappointment of the evening was the one which cut into my most anticipated event -the Get Physical showcase at Studio A. Well, not so much cut into as decimated - by the time (4 am) wed made it down to 11th St., the entry price (this event was not WMC-affiliated) had gone from $10 to $20 to $40. As much as Id really love to see a four hour M.A.N.D.Y. DJ set and the last fifteen minutes of a live Booka Shade concert, $40 is $40.

So instead we get an impressionistic shot of the very beginnings of sunrise:

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[Mallory O’Donnell]


February 23, 2007

Paco Osuna - Crazy

Barcelona DJ Paco Osuna makes his Plus 8 debut with this four tracker (and again, a fifth available if you download it from Beatportam I the only one who doesnt like that trend?) and the bouncing, layered minimal tech-house grooves fit the imprint nicely. The title track features a bunch of little ping-ponging analog bleeps and riffs that build in frequency and intensity nicely over the six and a half minutes, but the secret weapon is the sizzling, distorted hi-hat sound that he uses on the breakdowns. Alsound and Joakhim feature a more standard and more fucked up percussion pattern respectively, with the former being more of a trad banger and the latter being more of a funky workout thang.

Closer Sechamps sounds a lot like vintage Plus 8 stuff from the early 90s, but in a good way, and online bonus track Cretine is a slightly slower take on the same style. So all in all, another solid Plus 8 release, but whats really amazing to me is how Richie Hawtin manages to recruit all of these totally diverse artists for his label, then they turn out tracks that fall perfectly in line with the Plus 8 house style, even after more than 15 years. Neat trick, but no one else really does it and we techno fans do tend to be creatures of habit, so I cant complain. Whens Speedy J coming back?


Plus 8 / PLUS8093

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[Todd Hutlock]


February 23, 2007

Charts: February 23 2007

Mallory ODonnell
Dorfmeister Vs. MDLA - Boogie No More (Reverson 68 Remix) [G-Stone]
Teena Marie - Fix It (Instrumental) [Epic]
Escort - “Bright New Life” (Morgan Geist Remix) [Escort]
Blackbelt Anderson - Alfaz De Pi [Full Pupp]
Jackson Jones - I Feel Good (Pilooski Edit) [Dirty Edits]
Justin Timberlake - My Love (Linus Loves Remix) [Virgin]
Pet Shop Boys - Was It Worth It? (12″ Version) [EMI]
Tomboy - Seris [Gomma]
Gui Boratto - Chromophobia [Kompakt]
Donna Summer - Love to Love You Baby [Casablanca]

Michael F. Gill
Slg Anymore [Level Records]
The Model Stargate Interlude [Underl_ne]
Kris Menace feat. Fred Falke Fairlight [Compuphonic]
Photocall Silver Clouds (Dexter Remix) [Clone]
Flakes Sugar Frosted Lover [Calibre]
Proton Plus Pay Up [Yew Wood]
Kay-Gees Latican Funk [De-Lite Records]
Airto - Celebration Suite [Warner Bros/WEA Discos Ltda]
James Jack Rabbit Martin - Rabbit Trax I [Yoton]
Keith Tucker Electro Lights [Twilight 76]


January 26, 2007

Beatzcast #16: Michael F. Gill

Mixes2007Italo

The Dancing Therapy mix started off as a sort of self-help mixtape for myself, but later evolved into a generally uplifting set of vocal oriented italo/synth-pop hits….

01: International Music System (I.M.S.) - Dancing Therapy - Bellaphon, 1984
No better way to start off than with this, the impetus for starting this mix. The seemingly naive lyrics about using music to escape from your troubles take more of a poignant turn here. “Fusion to the beat really clears my mind” sums up a great amount of dance music’s appeal in just one line.

02: The Creatures - Believe In Yourself (Special Remix) - Full Time, 1983
Not to be confused with the Siouxsie Sioux side-group, The Creatures’ biggest hit is a bouncy, heavy-synth number with endearing dorky vocals extolling self-esteem with perhaps too much zeal (the opening line being “Boy, don’t be so shy!”).

03: Taffy - I Love My Radio (European Mix) - Emergency, 1986
Probably my favorite latter-day Italo track, it hits many of the overblown hallmarks of the mid ’80s (faceless vocals, huge synth-drums, chipper keyboards) while refusing to remain grounded to the template. Plus as a night owl myself, I can relate to the rather silly lyrics proclaiming love to a midnight radio DJ.

04: Brand Image - Are You Loving? - Il Discotto Productions, 1983
Il Discotto Productions were a high profile Italo label that briefly catered to the sci-fi/robotic side of the genre before moving more towards the candy-sweet pop end by the mid ’80s. One of their big releases was “Are You Loving?” by the little-known Brand Image, which continues this mix’s focus on defiant/strong vocals and aggressive keyboards.

05: Alden Tyrell feat. Fred Ventura - Love Explosion 05 - Clone, 2006
“Love Explosion” was a cult hit for Alden Tyrell in the neo-italo/electro circuit ever since its release way back in 1999. It gained its popularity as an instrumental, so when Alden finally released his debut album Times Like These last year, he re-recorded it as a vocal version with well-known italo vocalist Fred Ventura. Tyrell is one of the very few neo-italo composers whose productions could nearly pass as vintage, and the fact that the vocal version is nowhere as sleek, icy, and chic as the instrumental is testament to this.

06: Fokewulf 190 - Body Heat - Market Records, 1984
“Hey! You! Take a look at me! Look me in the eyes, there is something new.” The second cut in this little trilogy of Fred Ventura tracks finds the dear Italian vocalist in a near desperate wail. While most lyrical subjects in Italo are lightweight and superficial (following in the Eurodisco tradition), the tortured passion of Ventura is very much an anomaly. I have no idea how well-known “Body Heat” (or as Ventura says, “Badi hit”) was before it ended up on one of the C-B-S Top 100 lists, but it surely is one of the most angsty and lyrically sound italo tracks I know.

07: Flexx - Love Theme From Flexxy-Ball - Hole, 1983
“Love theme” is so close to the sound of “Body Heat” that it begs to be mixed in as the final Ventura vocal track in the trilogy. It’s a bit more on the uplifting side, and is probably responsible for naming the disco-friendly mail-order site Flexx.

08: Gary Low - I Want You - CAT Record, 1983
“I Want You” was a big hit among gay clubgoers in the ’80s, and was recently heavily sampled by Miss Kitten and the Hacker for their Mental Groove single “The Beach.” It’s definitely got a summertime feel, and even if the cheeseball vocals take a while to warm up too, it remains a perennial club favorite.

09: Pineapples - Come On Closer (Extended Club Mix) - Danse, 1983
What can I say about this recently reissued track, probably one of my favorite singles of all-time, and one of the most beloved, uplifting italo tracks around? Its likely that the bizarre cocktail lounge croon of Douglas Coop elevates it from perky synthpop to a feel-good anthem, but explaining the rest of its magic is impossible: you just have to hear it for yourself.

10: Trilogy - Not Love - Il Discotto Productions, 1982
Another Il Discotto Production, and another favorite of mine that seems to be overlooked. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the vocal version of “Not Love” used over the instrumental. It’s a shame, because the vocal really buys into the melodrama of the arrangement, and nearly seems confrontational.

11: Ottawan - D.I.S.C.O. (Instrumental) - Carrere, 1979
Ok, OK, the original is a total novelty (and even uses the same bassline of their previous hit, “Hands Up”) but I was surprised how much calmer the instrumental version is after hearing it. It also provides a nice vocal break until the next track…

12: Jimmy Ross - Fall Into A Trance (Remix) - Quality/RFC Records, 1982
…where the vocals are back to being zealous again. Jimmy Ross was one of the few italo vocalists who put more of an American soul influence in his music, so it sort of helps that his English is so slurred and heavy handed: it often makes him sound out of breath with emotion. “Fall Into a Trance” was his second biggest hit next to the boogie disco of “First True Love Affair,” which was later remixed by Larry Levan. There’s a compilation CD on Unidisc of Ross’ entire work that is recommended if you want to hear more.

13: Alexander Robotnick - Intro for Live Performance - Creme Organization, 2005
Mr. Robotnick has been going through a revival lately, with two rarities compilations coming out in the past few years. “Intro for Live Performance” is from the second volume, put out last year by Creme, and while it may seem odd for someone to walk onstage to anything this noir-ish, it’s probably one of the most minimal tracks in his oeuvre.

14: Ministry - I Wanted To Tell Her - Arista, 1983
Ministry might be a surprising name here, but their first album “With Sympathy” was a dead ringer for a lot of the Human League-esque new wave going on at the time. “I Wanted to Tell Her” combines this upbeat synth approach with a bit of the funk A Certain Ratio was doing, and has a great vocal to boot

15: Memory Control One (MC1) - Basic - Crash, 1984
This 1984 synth-pop single by the newly-feted Beppe Loda and Francesco Boscolo always sounds so triumphant to me, like it should soundtrack an athlete’s victory lap or the end of a sports movie. Hence, I’m placing it here as something of a coda to the mix, a sort of stand-alone resolution to the theoretical therapy of all the previous tracks.


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