Here Lies Man to Release You Will Know Nothing June 15; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Last year, Los Angeles’ Here Lies Man offered up one of the most individualized releases in underground heavy with their self-titled debut (review here). Issued through RidingEasy Records and following sonic thesis of combining heavy psychedelic rock with Afrobeat influences, it struck immediately with more than just aural novelty; the songs were there, the performances were there, the presence was there. It was, in short, the real deal.

I’m somewhat surprised at the quick turnaround that You Will Know Nothing — out June 15 once again on RidingEasy — represents, but the new streaming track “Fighting” that you can hear at the bottom of this post bodes well and no doubt there will be more to come before the album actually arrives. The band in the meantime will be touring alongside Earthless and if there’s any kind of order to the universe at all, they’ll get together and jam just a little bit on stage. Just a little bit would be awesome. Only two hours or so.

Ha.

The PR wire has particulars on You Will Know Nothing that you’ll find right beneath the cover art:

Here Lies Man You Will Know Nothing

Here Lies Man announce new album You Will Know Nothing

Los Angeles quintet Here Lies Man announce their forthcoming sophomore album today, sharing the first single “Fighting” via Bandcamp and YouTube. The album, You Will Know Nothing will be released June 15th via RidingEasy Records.

Here Lies Man play the prestigious Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, Spain in May before hitting the road with Earthless in June. Later in Fall, the band hits the massive Desert Daze festival in Southern California. Please see current dates below.

Here Lies Man took the music world by storm in 2017 with their self-titled debut positing the intriguing hypothesis: What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat?

This June, the L.A. band comprised of Antibalas members quickly follow their auspicious debut with the even more thoroughly realized album You Will Know Nothing. Its 11 tracks expand upon the band’s exploration of heavy riff-based rock and psych within the ancient rhythmic formula of the clave.

“We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs,” explains founder and vocalist/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Marcos Garcia (who also plays guitar in Antibalas) of the band’s sound. “Tony Iommi’s (Black Sabbath) innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song. We are taking that same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi it was the blues, for us it comes directly from Africa.”

Sonically, on You Will Know Nothing the dynamic range is thicker, crisper and more powerful. It glistens as much as it blasts. The songs are even catchier, more anthemic, and the production reflects that of a band truly come into its own. Lyrically, it’s an equally more conceptualized effort that reflects upon states of being and consciousness – a driving force that carries throughout the words and moods of all of the band’s releases, interconnected to their trancelike music. Here Lies Man have honed their sound and their focus, and soon, you will truly know Nothing.

“We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience,” says Garcia. “Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished.”

While You Will Know Nothing certainly maintains its gritty grooves, there’s an interesting conceptual mathematics to the entire proceedings. “There are interludes between each song that are 2/3 to 3/4 of the tempo of the previous song,” Garcia says. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa.”

“We dove deep into the texture of the music, beyond the groove and the riff,” says HLM cofounder and drummer Geoff Mann (former Antibalas drummer and son of jazz musician Herbie Mann.) “Although something might sound like one instrument, there are subtle layers shifting through. It’s definitely a headphone album.”

Garcia and Mann recorded the album much like they did the debut, at their own L.A. studio on a Tascam 388 8-track tape machine. Congas were later recorded by percussionists Richard Panta and Reinaldo DeJesus. Then, Garcia went to NY to record interludes with former Antibalas keyboardist Victor Axelrod. Mixing took the most time in order to find the proper sonic space for each layer of musical detail, with first album engineer Jeremy Page mixing the drums and the band tackling the remainder while also juggling a hectic touring schedule.

Here Lies Man has already spent much of early 2018 on tour, with dates supporting Antibalas and Fu Manchu as well as a headlining trek through the EU & UK. Many summer festival dates and headline tours await later in the year as Here Lies Man continues its infectious charge onward.

You Will Know Nothing will be available on LP, CD and download on June 15th, 2018 via RidingEasy Records.

HERE LIES MAN LIVE 2018:
05/31 Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound Festival
06/05 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight *
06/06 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade *
06/07 Spartansburg, SC @ Ground Zero *
06/08 Orlando, FL @ Wills Pub *
06/09 Tallahassee, FL @ The Wilbury *
06/10 Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon *
06/12 Houston, TX @ White Oak Upstairs *
06/13 Austin, TX @ Barracuda *
06/14 Ft Worth, TX @ Ridgela Room *
06/15 Memphis, TN @ Growlers *
10/12-14 Lake Perris, CA @ Desert Daze 2018
* w/ Earthless

Artist: Here Lies Man
Album: You Will Know Nothing
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: June 15th, 2018

01. Animal Noises
02. Summon Fire
03. Blindness
04. That Much Closer
05. Hell (Wooly Tail)
06. Voices At The Window
07. Taking the Blame
08. Fighting
09. Floating On Water
10. Memory Games
11. You Ought To Know

hereliesman.com
facebook.com/hereliesman
hereliesman.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

Here Lies Man, “Fighting”

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Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

Taarna on Thee Facebooks

Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

Fuzz Lord on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

Marijannah on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Owl on Bandcamp

 

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Black Mare & Offret Release Split 7″; Streaming in Full Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Next month, as Los Angeles one-woman outfit Black Mare — aka Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini, Zun, Black Math Horseman, etc. — hits the road for a run up to Portland and back, she’ll release a new vinyl edition of last year’s Death Magick Mother (review here). That album was fairly magnificent, so I’m just going to assume the last pressing sold out and this one will as well. Timms under the Black Mare guise also has a split out with Russian atmospherists Offret via Dark Operative that’s available now both digitally and as a 7″ that can be ordered through the label’s Bandcamp page.

The PR wire very kindly offers the following details:

black mare offret alone among mirrors

BLACK MARE Releases Split With Offret Via Dark Operative; Death Magic Mother Full-Length To Be Issued On Limited Edition Vinyl This April + Live Dates Confirmed

Los Angeles, California’s BLACK MARE and Russia’s Offret recently united to release a split seven-inch via Dark Operative.

Titled Alone Among Mirrors, BLACK MARE’s “Woman The Throne” occupies side A. Bleak, cold opening riffs chip against the previous silence like hammered chisel into centuries-old slabs of ice before opening up just before the two-minute mark, eventually revealing the cavernous domain of sonic textures beneath the dense exoskeleton. This track was conceived, written, and recorded around the sessions that produced the band’s recently issued Death Magick Mother full-length album. “Woman The Throne” was written and recorded by Sera Timms and mastered by Dan Randall at Mammoth Sound.

Side B features Offret’s “We Are Waiting,” an ominous summoning that its title infers. Air-siren-conjuring drones and deep, guttural organ tones topped with rattlesnake percussion instantly transport the ear and the mind to another land in another time. Russian lyrics effectively drive the concept home, as most listeners will find themselves strangers in an ominous setting before a triumphant second and third act unfolds from the midpoint on. “We Are Waiting” written and recorded by Offret with additional saxophone performed by Ksenia Balashovich and mixed and mastered by Sasha Sidorov at Crushed Wafers Sound.

To stream and purchase Alone Among Mirrors visit the Dark Operative Bandcamp page at THIS LOCATION.

In conjunction with the vinyl release, BLACK MARE will take to the streets on a California mini-tour with Los Angeles’ Glaare. The journey will run from April 17th through April 25th and includes a performance at Stumpfest. See all confirmed dates below.

BLACK MARE w/ Glaare:
4/17/2018 Moroccan Lounge – Los Angeles, CA
4/18/2018 DNA – San Francisco, CA
4/19/2018 Press Club – Sacramento, CA
4/20/2018 Stumpfest – Portland, OR * No Glaare
4/23/2018 Crepe Place – Santa Cruz, CA
4/25/2018 Trichromatic Gallery – Modesto, CA

http://www.theblackmare.com
http://www.facebook.com/Black-Mare
http://www.facebook.com/offretband
http://darkops.site
http://darkoperative.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/darkoperativemusic

Black Mare & Offret, Alone Among Mirrors (2018)

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The Freeks Post Album Details for Crazy World

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the freeks

We’re mere days — hours! minutes! — away from preorders opening for Crazy World the new album from Los Angeles heavy rockers The Freeks. The band, who if you missed it were just added to Freak Valley 2018 and presumably will announce more European dates on either side of that appearance, have set March 6 as the opening bell for their new record’s availability, and while the actual release won’t follow until April 27, I’d imagine that for just about anyone who heard their 2016 album, Shattered (review here), this follow-up is a pretty easy sell. Especially with that front cover. Looks frickin’ awesome.

With the announcement of the title, preorders, release date, artwork and tracklisting — seems like plenty for one press release, I suppose — we move into the next stage of pre-release hype. You know that means audio isn’t far behind. I’m gonna try to get in on some of that if I can, so stay tuned, but either way, if you’re a believer in what’s righteous and good in rock and roll, keep an eye out for these Freeks. They do not disappoint.

Info, etc. from the usual source:

the freeks crazy world

THE FREEKS – CRAZY WORLD

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records & Booking is happy to unveil cover & details of the upcoming album *** THE FREEKS – CRAZY WORLD ***

RELEASE DATE: April 27th
PRESALE STARTS: March 6th

AVAILABLE IN
LTD PURPLE VINYL
BLACK VINYL
DIGIPAK
DIGITAL

Los Angeles band, THE FREEKS, know that as the Earth revolves the sun and the Universe infinitely expands, it must be shared with as many different kinds of life as there are stars. A bold statement coming from a bunch of FREEKS. This is not a new concept, however, an ever recurring one dating back to Ezekiel’s biblical account to even further back with evidence from ancient Egypt and Mayan times. After 4,000 years the theory continues strong as we enter 2018.

THE FREEKS also enter 2018 with the completion of “CRAZY WORLD”, their fourth full length “LP” and second release for Italian based HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS RECORDS. A studio record with eight songs that take you on a psychedelic journey from hidden moonlit distilleries all the way up to the Mothership and back down to Mother Earth. It could have happened in 2700 BC and it’s definitely happening again now as THE FREEKS continue to ferment their ethanol infused fuzz rock, bead their songwriting to reflect a heavier content and extract added amounts of psychoactive chemicals from the minds of their listeners.

RUBEN ROMANO (founding member of Fu Manchu and Nebula) returns at the helm supported by BOB LEE on drums (Claw Hammer, Mike Watt), ESTEBAN CHAVEZ on Keys, JONATHAN HALL on Guitar (Backbiter) and introducing the latest Freek on Bass, RAY PILLER (Biblical Proof of U.F.O.’s). “Crazy World” also features some amazing musical guests that add to the insanity and continue THE FREEKS “All Are Welcome” legacy. It has ripping guitar leads by RAY HANSON (from legendary THEE HYPNOTICS), added keys and synth from returning Freek alumni GLENN SLATER (The Walkabouts and Wellwater Conspiracy), added bass lines by “CRAZY WORLD” producer RAINER FRAENKEL (The Miracle Mongers) plus backing vocals by singer/model SARA LOERA.

All together to create THE FREEKS CRAZY WORLD!

TRACKLIST
1. American Lightning
2. This Is Love
3. Easy Way Out
4. Take 9
5. Hypnotize My Heart
6. Thank You Mr. Downing
7. Chronic Abduction
8. Mothership to Mother Earth

THE FREEKS are
Ruben Romano – guitar/vocals
Bob Lee – drums
Esteban Chavez – keys
Jonathan Hall – guitars

https://www.facebook.com/TheFreeks/
https://twitter.com/The_Freeks
http://www.thefreeks.com/
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS044

The Freeks, Shattered (2016)

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Nebula Interview & Full Album Stream Pt. 3: Dos EPs

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on February 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

nebula

[Click play above to stream the new reissue of Nebula’s Dos EPs in its entirety. Album is out March 2 via Heavy Psych Sounds.]

Please note: This interview is part three in a series of three. Part one is here. Part two is here.

With its graceful execution of desert psych in “Back to the Dawn,” the full-on fuzz assault of “Fall of Icarus” and the quintessential nodder groove and Rhodes-infused jammy excursion of “Fly On,” Nebula‘s Dos EPs represents the end of an era. It was originally issued in 2002 via MeteorCity, and it’s the last of the band’s releases to feature the trio’s original lineup of guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano. That in itself would be enough to earn it a place as a footnote in heavy rock history, but while it was culled together by collecting tracks from two prior short outings and thee previously unreleased cuts, here’s the thing about Dos EPs: it worked really well as a full-length album.

Eerily well.

Better, certainly, than it should have. Credit to the flow in Nebula‘s material generally, I suppose, that the 11 tracks on Dos EPs should just be molten enough generally to ooze together as a cogent single offering despite being captured in different sessions and initially put out separately in 1999 as the Man’s Ruin-released Sun Creature EP — “Rollin’ My Way to Freedom,” “Sun Creature,” “Smokin’ Woman” and “Fly On” — and a split with Sweden’s Lowrider — “Anything from You,” “Full Throttle,” “Back to the Dawn,” “Fall of Icarus.” These plus the new songs “Rocket,” the maddenly infectious “Long Day” and “Bardo Airways” comprise Dos EPs, and in so doing end up summarizing the scope from hard-driving heavy rock à la most-stoned-Motörhead to kraut-inspired layers of acoustic and electric guitar swirl. Though technically speaking, 2001’s Charged was the final Nebula long-player to be recorded with GlassAbshire and Romano, more often it’s Dos EPs marked out as the last full-length work the band did before they jumped from Sub Pop to short-lived Century Media offshoot Liquor and Poker Records and, losing Abshire in the interim, released  Atomic Ritual in 2003.

The new remaster of Dos EPs from Heavy Psych Sounds — aside from sounding fucking fantastic, as you can hear in the player above you stream the album ahead of its official March 2 release date– reorders the songs so that they apprear not mixed together as they originally were, but in the order from their initial releases. That is, you get the Lowrider split tracks, then you get the stuff from Sun Creature, then you get the material that had yet to show up anywhere else. Then of course on this version there are two bonus tracks included. This gives Dos EPs a somewhat more organized and linear feel, though again, the real highlight of the thing is the vibe Nebula are able to bring to bear in these songs. It’s something that, across whatever the band did afterwards and no matter who was involved, would never be quite the same again.

Before I wrap up this series, I’d like to thank Ruben Romano (now of The Freeks) personally for taking the time to discuss these three releases. It’s been great getting his side of the story about what any consider Nebula‘s highlight years. Thanks as well to Claire Bernadet for facilitating. The final Q&A follows here.

Please enjoy:

nebula dos eps

Where did the idea come from to compile Sun Creature and the Lowrider split onto a single disc? What about adding “Rocket,” “Long Day” and “Bardo Airways” to that mix? Do you consider Dos EPs a full-length album?

I think it was recording those three songs that gave us the idea to combine the two EP’s. It was like, we got three kick ass songs! What are we going to do with them? Man’s Ruin was done and the Sun Creature EP reverted back to us. MeteorCity was looking for a second release, whether it was a contractual thing or not I don’t know. Can’t remember everything. But Jadd Shickler was stoked on putting the MeteorCity stamp on it, so yes, we turned it into a full-length that never got released on vinyl until now with these reissues.

How did working with Man’s Ruin come about for Sun Creature? What did you think when you first saw Frank Kozik’s cover art? How about getting paired with Lowrider for that split? How did the two of you get hooked up?

I think that just being on the road a lot at that time, being a band from that era and in that scene is how it really came down to happening. Having the Fu Manchu connection, the Kyuss and QOTSA connection on top of kicking ass is how we got in with Frank and Man’s Ruin.

I have always enjoyed rock art! I have no idea how it happened but all of a sudden, in high school, I started receiving “art rock” catalogs. They were like 10-page pamphlets selling old rock posters from Rick Griffin, Stanley “Mouse” Miller, Victor Moscoso, etc. I would gaze at them for hours. It also featured comic art like Furry Freak Brothers, Wizard of Id, and a lot of Crumb. So when Kozik came around and then started dealing music I was thrilled. I expected more of that Kozik comic book character cover, like the label’s cat logo or his classic bunny rabbits, so when I saw this girl eating a mango I was totally surprised. And I thought to myself, She’s HOT!!!

We had nothing to do with the pairing with Lowrider, Man’s Ruin did all that. However, I remember the first time I met Peder [Bergstrand] from Lowrider, it was at Loppen in Christiania. This was way before that split happened, I believe we were touring with Unida at that time. I feel bad now because at that time he kind of annoyed me because I was trying to eat and he kept asking me questions that I couldn’t answer because I had food in my mouth. But after that, and then with the split, we became friends. Then I once had a random encounter with him in Barcelona, Spain. Ran into him while we were both on holidays, so we got our ladies and went out and had dinner together. I can say I’m totally still friends with him, a cool and funny person for sure.

This was the last release with the original lineup. Looking back on it now, how do you feel about what you, Eddie and Mark were able to accomplish in those early years together? Any specific memories of recording or touring you’d like to share from this time?

They were my brothers, I was completely and totally loyal to Nebula at that time. I mean, I was totally loyal to Fu Manchu as well when I was a part of that. When I’m into something, I’m into it 110 percent. I declined so many invitations and missed opportunities to jam with other people and other bands because I was already in a band that I truly believed in, admired and was devoted to. We were a gang! We did accomplish a lot, there’s no doubt about it. The memories I have could fill a book — how cliché is that? — but it’s true.

From tour managers getting into fistfights with bus drivers to getting teeth knocked out trying to tackle the roadie. From getting left behind in Sweden while the bus is already in Denmark. Hitting every go kart track that we saw on the highway no matter how late we were. Having to save someone from imminent jail time for tossing a cigarette butt on a Spanish tarmac while flipping the bird at the pilot because I was the only one who spoke Spanish. Always looking back and Ninja Luke always being there without fail and on cue ready to torch the gong! Being told “Hey, those aren’t walnuts, those are psychedelic truffles! Did you eat all those?”

All those times and many more were all specific! The places I’ve seen, the people I met and the friends I’ve made. Man, I loved touring and those two were right there beside me.

Anything else you’d like to say about Dos EPs in particular?

Out of all these reissues, I always loved the cover for Dos EPs the best. Taken from a book cover I found in the children section of the public library entitled “LSD” and having Mark superimpose us within it. It came out beautiful! I am so stoked to finally see that one released as a 12”.

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Six Dumb Questions with All Souls

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on February 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all souls photo Memo Villasenor

There is an entire league of brutally underrated crafters of heavy rock and roll whose greatest misfortune, perhaps, was being active before the ascendancy of social media made ‘word of mouth’ as simple as cutting and pasting a link to a news feed, and it is to this number that Tony Aguilar belongs. Together with Meg Castellanos, Aguilar stood at the helm of the raw, bold and deeply individualized outfit Totimoshi for more than a decade before their 2011 outing, Avenger (review here), served as their final triumph and swansong, and after a few years of exploring flamenco and folk influences together in Alma Sangre as well as tour managing for the likes of Sleep and the Melvins, the urge to reestablish a footing in heavy music asserted itself, and All Souls began to take shape.

Of course, no story is ever quite that simple, but as All Souls issued their self-titled debut (review here) on Feb. 9 through Sunyata Records and quickly took off on a UK tour alongside Fatso Jetson, that footing sure seems to have been found. Comprised of Aguilar on guitar/vocals, Castellanos on bass/vocals, Erik Trammell of Black Elk on guitar and backing vocals, and Tony Tornay, also of Fatso Jetson, on drums, All Souls offer nine songs of varied moods but universal impact on the self-titled, reminding of the strength that was in Aguilar and Castellanos‘ songwriting process during the Totimoshi days but building outward as well and covering new ground thanks to the contributions of Trammell and Tornay to the mix. A production job by Toshi Kasai blends weighted crunch with fluid layering on songs like “Money Man” and “Sadist/Servant,” the latter of which trades between open stretches of melancholia and some of the record’s most forceful percussive impact, making the entire experience more engaging, cohesive and sincere.

I’ve already reviewed the album, so I’ll spare you any further blah blah blah about how I think it’s worth your time and the effort of an active listen and just get to the interview. As All Souls just wrapped that tour with Fatso Jetson — Tornay pulling double-duty at his kit — it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the story behind the band’s origins, how they came together after the slow dissolution of Totimoshi, and where they might be headed after this initial collection. Fresh from the road, Aguilar was kind enough to accommodate.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

all souls all souls

Six Dumb Questions with All Souls

Tell me about getting All Souls together. How did Erik Trammell and Tony Tornay get involved? Was there a specific impetus behind forming a new rock-style project, and when it came to it, what was behind the decision to not simply bring back Totimoshi? What are the differences between the two bands for you?

The rock music community is a small world, especially if you’re in a touring band. All the members of All Souls have been friends for years. Before the forming of our band, Meg and I had known Erik Trammell and Tony Tornay for probably 20 years. We met Erik back in the ’90s when he was in the band Wadsworth. Later his band Black Elk used to play shows with Totimoshi. Meg and I met Tony Tornay back in the ’90s as well when Fatso Jetson opened for Kyuss at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.

When Meg and I moved to L.A., I got a job working for the Melvins, which turned into working for Neurosis and Sleep, which led to me being on road for nine months out of the year. I really believe that cost me Totimoshi. Being absent is not good for a band. Eventually, Chris Fugitt, the drummer in Totimoshi ended up moving back to Kansas City because of a job offer. Totimoshi tried to continue with new drummers but it just didn’t feel right. After Totimoshi ended, Meg and I started an acoustic band called Alma Sangre that incorporates Spanish guitar with flamenco dance. It was sort of a venture into a completely different type of songwriting and singing (I sing in Spanish with sort of a Chavela Vargas-type of delivery).

As that went on I got the itch to be in a rock band again, which eventually led me to starting a band called Last Days of Ancient Sunlight with my friend Ferdie [Cudia] from the band 400 Blows. We were a band for about a year and a half — even recorded a full length that never came out because of in-fighting. All this time, Tony Tornay and I would see each other occasionally and throw around the idea of starting a band. We even jammed a few times. About the time Last Days broke up Erik Trammell moved back to Los Angeles from Austin. I had set Erik up with a friend of mine that rented a room to him. Erik and I talked one day and the idea of writing together came up. Which is how All Souls basically started. Erik Trammell and I sitting in my spare room — him playing guitar and me mostly singing. Over the course of a few weeks we came up with the bare structure for three songs which I sent to Tony Tornay. Tony liked it; then TornayErik and I talked and decided on Meg for bass because we liked her playing and felt a female vocal would add something special. That’s how All Souls was born.

Personally, the difference between All Souls and Totimoshi is All Souls is way more developed. It’s 10 times the visual, 10 times the feel and strength of Totimoshi. It’s literally the band I always dreamed of being in. It is also more art by committee that Totimoshi ever was. I tended to be a bit of a dictator in Totimoshi. With All Souls, the I has turned into we. We all write, we all write well, we all trust. All Souls involved.

When were the songs for the self-titled written, and were they written with any specific goals in mind? Was there something in particular you wanted the album to express?

Before the band ever played together we sat at a table and discussed how we were going to proceed. This was Tony Tornay‘s idea and I still think back with fondness to that evening. We drank wine and discussed music… more importantly we discussed what we wanted All Souls to be. From what I remember we wanted female/male energy (no overly macho bullshit). We wanted the songs to decide the length of the song — not some ridiculous formula. We wanted dark music that illuminates, and we wanted deep complex melody. We talked about bands that we loved, but that’s a secret. Over the course of about a year we made this all come to fruition.

Tell me about being back in the studio with Toshi Kasai. How long were you there? What was the recording process like? You worked with him of course with Totimoshi, but how was it different this time and what did he bring to the table as a producer? What was it about him that let you know he was the guy for the job?

Meg, Erik, and myself had all worked with Toshi Kasai prior to All Souls. Tony Tornay listened to his work and agreed that Toshi was the guy. We are all friends with him, know and love him and respect his vision as a producer. Toshi has a very specific way of recording and mixing that we love. Personally, I feel that because we have worked so much together — we understand and trust each other. We recorded with Toshi in three different sessions. The goal was to write three songs, rehearse the shit out of the three songs, record the three songs, then move on to the next three. Over the course of about a year all nine songs were recorded at Toshi‘s Sound of Sirens Studio.

Is it any different working with Meg in All Souls as opposed to Totimoshi or in Alma Sangre? Not looking to pry, but how do you view the interaction between the personal relationship and the creative one? How interrelated are they?

Meg and I have been in a relationship for 27 years. That is 27 years of dreaming, writing, traveling and working together, and I don’t see us slowing down. We understand each other very well as people and as artists. That dynamic plays very similarly in each artistic endeavor that we have been a part of but I do feel that All Souls is our first real and true collaboration with other people. I feel like for the most part Totimoshi and Alma Sangre was basically Meg and I doing most of the major work and allowing input from other people that were involved. All Souls is a real and true circle of collaboration. Not only do we all write, but we all work on the forward movement of the band. I’ve never really been in a band until now that literally has every member of the band networking, setting up shows, tours, and dealing with PR. Namely, the business side of things. Before All Souls it seemed that it was always up to Meg and myself. It is truly a great thing to see, but I’m not surprised — we all sat at the table and drew this thing up. That is the strength of this project.

How was touring the UK with Fatso Jetson? How did Tony handle pulling double-duty on drums, and how much road Eme do you ulEmately think All Souls will do in the US and abroad?

The tour was amazing. There is nothing like playing and touring with not only friends but a band you consider a true inspiration. Tony Tornay was powerhouse on this tour — and he did it while fighting the flu!! He’s part man, part machine. We were well received everywhere we went, we got to see some incredible towns and meet some great people. One of the most amazing things we saw was people traveling from great distances to come see the show, some flying in from other countries. Some fans came to multiple shows. I think I can speak for all the members when I say we are hoping to tour as much as humanly possible. What better thing is there in life?

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Our first album is done and we are already writing for the next. All Souls forever!

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Nebula Interview & Full Album Stream Pt. 2: To the Center

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on February 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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[Click play above to stream the new reissue of Nebula’s To the Center in its entirety. Album is out Feb. 16 via Heavy Psych Sounds.]

Please note: This interview is part two in a series of three. Part one is here. Part three arrives Feb 27.

Recording with Jack Endino.Road-dogging it on tour so you don’t have to say home and pay rent. Signing to Sub Pop after running into label head Megan Jasper in the produce aisle at a grocery store and winding up signed to of the most influential undergoing imprints of all time as a result. Seeming to consume an entire interstellar mycelial network of mushrooms in the process. To hear original drummer Ruben Romano tell it, it was just all part of being in Nebula around the time of their 1999 debut LP, To the Center.

No wonder it’s one of the best stoner rock records of all time, with a band of laid back electric and acoustic guitars, a bevvy of languid desert grooves and some more driving fare for the punkers in the crowd. Nebula‘s proper debut EP, Let it Burn (discussed here). Still, as Nebula were living out this process of rock and roll daydreams, all was no exactly well in the band, and by the time they got around to releasing 2001’s Charged, their second and final offering for Sub Pop, it would prove to be the final outing for the original Nebula lineup of Romano, guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass and bassist Mark Abshire as well.

But at this point, with To the Center and its languid blend of more-laid-back-than-thou riffs and acoustic strums, psychedelic sitars and space rocking freakout jams, with its Randyo Holden and Stooges covers — “Between Time” and “I Need Somebody,” respectively — it was a goddamn party and it certainly sounds like one on the album. In the interview that follows, Romano tells a couple quick but choice stories about what it was like to be in Nebula at this time.

You’ll find the Q&A under the artwork for To the Center, which again, is out on Heavy Psych Sounds Feb. 16.

Please enjoy:

nebula to the center

To the Center Q&A with Ruben Romano

How did the band change coming off of Let it Burn and moving into To the Center? Was there anything specific you knew you wanted to do from one release to the other?

What changed was that we now were total road dogs. Touring was all we did and when we were not on the road we were always in the rehearsal room. The specific thing that we wanted to do from one release to the other was to keep on doing it! All we wanted was to keep Rolling our way to Freedom.

Tell me about writing the album. How did the songs come together and what was that period of time like for you as a band?

We toured so much that we became a super tight band and things happened naturally. Playing with Eddie and Mark came easy. While we were on the road we would be jamming a riff at soundcheck, those brief in between tour moments were spent in rehearsal rooms jamming. Eddie also had a back catalog of four-track demo songs that we pulled from, and one that he wrote with his friend Neil Blender was pulled as well. Then jamming on covers of songs that we all loved, liked The Stooges and Randy Holden started sounding and feeling good. So we included those as well and all of a sudden we had 12 songs that comprised To the Center. At that period of time the band was extremely busy. It kept us from having to pay rent, so the time off the road became shorter and shorter.

You’d already recorded with Jack Endino for Sun Creature and the Lowrider split. What was it about the experience that brought you back to him? What did he capture in Nebula’s sound?

Jack was a cool guy. We worked well with him the first time around and he really dug what we were doing. I think we really impressed him during those To the Center sessions with our knowledge of great obscure underground music, like The Groundhogs. He was the biggest fan of Tony McPhee and The Groundhogs and was stoked when we brought them up in giving him production ideas of what we wanted to achieve. After that he wore his Groundhogs shirt a few times during those sessions. The other thing that he captured for Nebula was clamping the Sub Pop deal. How did that happen? Well, before that session started, we finished a European tour and flew back to New York were we crashed for a good week. That’s when we entered LoHo Studios and recorded the other half of those two EPs. If I recall properly we also just finished a deal and got signed to a label called Zero Hour. So, going into record for them, that’s where the plan to return to Jack came about as we got into the van and toured back across the

US ending in Seattle. That’s where Jack was, so returning to recording with Jack fit perfect. A week after the session started is when Zero Hour just disappeared – no contact at all! The phone was dead. Jack was so cool that he goes, “Let’s finish this anyways and figure it out later.” Now, at the same time we took a food break and, with Jack, we went to a grocery store. In that grocery store we happened to bump into Megan Jasper in the produce department. Head of Sub Pop. Her and Jack spoke a bit and that’s where the spark happened, that’s how we got connected to Sub Pop: a random meeting at a grocery store in Ballard, Washington.

Anything else you’d like to say about it in particular?

I liked Ballard, Washington. What a great memory!

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Review & Full Album Stream: All Souls, All Souls

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all souls all souls

[Click play above to stream All Souls’ All Souls in its entirety. Album is out Feb. 9 on Sunyata Records.]

Momentum is quickly on the side of the self-titled debut from Los Angeles heavy rockers All Souls, as the result of a resounding opening salvo of uptempo hooks released like years of pent-up tension. And they just might be. The four-piece trace their roots back to a brutally underappreciated outfit called Totimoshi, from whence guitarist/vocalist Tony Aguilar and bassist/vocalist Meg Castellanos both come, and here joined with guitarist/backing vocalist Erik Trammell of Black Elk and drummer Tony Tornay of Fatso Jetson, the couple/core duo in some ways pick up where their prior band left off — that is to say, driving riffs with roots in punk, grunge and heavy rock, emotive melodies and memorable songcraft brought to bear with a boldness of naturalism through a Toshi Kasai production that would scare most groups away even in concept.

Issued through Sunyata Records, which is owned by Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees and Mad Season (speaking of emotive melody), All SoulsAll Souls comprises nine tracks and runs an efficient but not bare 46 minutes, and whether it’s the blend of howling electrics and acoustic strum of “Sadist/Servant” later in the record — on which, by the way, Tool‘s Danny Carey puts in a guest appearance on drums — or the earlier circular chorus bludgeon of “Never Know,” it is a record varied of approach but unflinching in its expressive purposes. It builds unrepentantly on the past experience of the band’s members but finds them unwilling to give up exploring new ground in favor of simply retreading old paths, and particularly as side A moves into side B around centerpiece “Rename the Room,” grows into a listening experience that only becomes richer in repetition.

But those hooks. Those hooks — a one-two-three punch of upbeat rush that carries through opener “Party Night,” the aforementioned “Never Know” and the start-stop verse into stomping chorus launch of “Money Man” — set the course for All Souls, and it’s a 14-minute push that speaks to the high level of craft all throughout. Aguilar and Trammell weave complementary guitar lines fluidly from the outset — as in, immediately on “Party Night” — as Castellanos adds low-end tension to the Songs for the Deaf-style careen of the opener and Tornay finds his builds and crashing payoffs handed down alongside handclaps during the bridge. Leads, rhythms, acoustics, vocal harmonies, percussive presence and a residual tonal crunch permeate, but All Souls are firmly in control of “Party Night,” and they’ll remain so as “Never Know” — one of three inclusions here over six minutes long; the others being “Rename the Room” and closer “Time Bomb” — spins heads with its manically repeated title lyric.

Because Aguilar has such a distinct vocal delivery, because he’s often on his own during the verses, and because of the balance in the mix the inclusion of backing vocals from Castellanos and Trammell comes across as subtle, but it’s another aspect that, be it in “Never Know” or “Money Man” or the no-less-sing-along-ready “Silence,” which follows, adds a sense of cohesion to the tracks. And as to why “Silence” isn’t included in that opening salvo — because really there’s no dip in quality there or anywhere after — it’s a matter of vibe and tempo. “Silence” pulls back some on the accelerator from “Money Man” and introduces a more spacious sensibility especially in its echo-laden second half that “Rename the Room” continues to build upon, thereby serving as a transitional moment in the overarching flow rather than a furthering of the record’s initial argument in its own favor. That argument, in other words, is simply entering its next phase.

all souls photo Memo Villasenor

“Rename the Room” might be the emotional crux of All Souls‘ All Souls. Atop flourish of reverb guitar, Aguilar blends indie and grunge-style melodic sweetness in a serene, contemplative and still of-the-desert vibe as Tornay punctuates, and a break to minimalist quiet leads excitingly to a choice and unabashedly rocking groove in the second half, “cool” in the classic sense of sunglasses at night and a backdrop for a wailing solo, cyclical toms and an ambient feel that remains steady despite the uptick in activity, drawing the two sides of the track together, and really, doing the same for the album as a whole. It ends quiet and “The Ghost is Flying Home” stomps in quickly with a more foreboding mood before turning from the earlier-established structures to break into thirds with verses and choruses bookending an exploratory midsection that in addition to some highlight vocal interplay from Castellanos and Aguilar works to build to a driving thrust of a fuzz and payoff, leading to the quiet start of the emergently-percussive “Sadist/Servant.” I’m not sure if Tornay plays alongside Carey, but if you told me there were two drummers on the track, I’d believe it. Nonetheless, its primary impression comes through the woven guitars and melodies and the balance of rhythm and melody, rather than a showy or overly progressive spirit shoehorned into a record otherwise so brimming with humanity.

A galloping, squealing finish comes to a head and cuts out cold to set the stage for the mid-paced tension of the penultimate “Reveille,” which takes a more winding approach and winds up somewhat hypnotic for it despite a thud of toms two minutes in and resonant crescendo marked by thicker tones at the cymbal-wash finish. The varied course of “The Ghost is Flying Home,” “Sadist/Servant” and “Reveille,” in comparison to “Party Night,” “Never Know” and “Money Man” at the outset, does much to flesh out All Souls‘ aesthetic reach overall, and the finale/summary in the 6:51 of “Time Bomb” only underscores the achievement made in terms of dynamic and chemistry between players. Around yet another memorable chorus, All Souls swirl and churn and keep a forward trajectory even as they seem to willfully meander, pursuing sandy expanses one more time before pulling together and heading toward a last push, Tornay saving highlight snare work to cut through the echoing guitars before the whole thing seems to break apart amid residual tones and the album’s final notes.

It’s been seven years since Totimoshi released their last album, Avenger (review here), and nearly two decades since they made their self-titled debut in 1999. If All Souls, who’ve been together since 2015/2016, is to be a redirection of the work that Aguilar and Castellanos did in that outfit, then it’s a relief much of what made that band so underrated in terms of craft and performance and personality remains intact in this material. At the same time, it’s exciting to hear desert rock so readily engaged on the group’s own terms rather than those of the style itself, and used as part of a broad pastiche that one hopes continues to expand as they move forward. While it’s almost unfair to consider it a debut, for the excitement factor in the actual hearing, the songwriting on display and the potential in the already-so-prevalent chemistry among all four players, there’s no doubt All Souls‘ All Souls will stand among 2018’s best.

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