Quarterly Review: Corrections House, Antimatter, Colossus, Bastard Lord, Monocluster, Valley, Shatner, Australasia, The Moth Gatherer, Super Witch

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review winter

Well, this is where we hit and pass the halfway point. It’s been a good week so far. Busy, but good. I hope you’ve found something that you dig or agree with or whatnot. I know it’s kind of hard to dig through 10 releases at once, but even if you see cover art that strikes a nerve, going with that impulse is rarely a bad idea, particularly when the level of commitment involved is clicking play on a Bandcamp player to get a taste. Pretty wide range today, so let’s dig in.

Quarterly review #21-30:

Corrections House, Know How to Carry a Whip

corrections house know how to carry a whip

Since they made their debut as a unit in 2013 with Last City Zero (also on Neurot), the don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House – vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), saxophonist/vocalist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Bloodiest) and programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea) – have spread their bleak gospel of totalitarian industrial vehemence to audiences in the US and Europe. Their second offering, Know How to Carry a Whip, is bolder sound-wise and retains a very human, punk rock core with Williams’ sneer playing off Kelly’s gutturalism on “White Man’s Gonna Lose” and nearly goes goth in doing the same with Lamont in the later “When Push Comes to Shank,” but across the 45-minute span, the songs remain in the key of abrasion, and ultimately that’s what most unites them. As noisy as closer “Burn the Witness” gets, I can’t help but think of the acoustic, Lamont-led centerpiece “Visions Divide” as the bleakest moment of the record, twisting folkish conventions into a dystopian soundscape, but Williams’ spoken drug-poetry on “I was Never Good at Meth” provides stiff competition.

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Neurot Recordings

Antimatter, The Judas Table

The Judas Table

Lush in its arrangements and doling out extreme measures of melancholy across its 56 minutes, Antimatter’s sixth album, The Judas Table (on Prophecy Productions), brings sonic depth to bear in rich textures of electric and acoustic guitars, keys, and the strength-through-fragility vocals of remaining founder and songwriter Mick Moss. The group’s last offering, 2012’s Fear of a Unique Identity (review here), pushed them into fuller tones, and an early cut like “Killer” builds on that, but the crux of The Judas Table is in subdued and brooding pieces like “Little Piggy,” remorseful and seething in kind as it moves through an acoustic-led arrangement marked out by strings and a sense of grace. “Integrity” asks the question, “What’s the point if no one else has any?” and sets a depressive run through one of the record’s grader builds, but Antimatter are hardly contained to one style here, as the New Wave inflection on “Can of Worms” or the rumbling apex of highlight “Stillborn Empires” demonstrate.

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Prophecy Productions

Colossus, The Breathing World

colossus the breathing world

Not to be confused with their Swedish countrymen who operated under the same moniker and whose lineup included a post-and-pre-Candlemass Messiah Marcolin, Stockholm’s Colossus play a decidedly progressive blend of Peaceville-style doom and metal, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Niklas Eriksson, bassist Peter Berg and drummer Thomas Norstedt adding a near-immediate inflection toward the epic via Primordial-style vocal patterning on opener “Yehi Aour/Wanderers” that holds for much of their 48-minute sophomore outing, The Breathing World (on Perennity Records). “Darkling Root” and more so the chugging “Fuga Mundi” delve into blackened fare in the guitar, but it’s just one of an array of genres in Colossus’ arsenal and in the case of the latter, soon enough complemented by Opethian prog noodling and soulful vocalizing. These turns, which more often than not happen in an instant, are a great strength of The Breathing World, but would fall flat without the crisp, confident delivery the band provides leading to the grand sprawl and long fade of 10-minute closer, “The Silent City.”

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Colossus on Bandcamp

Bastard Lord, Bastard Lord

bastard lord bastard lord

One thing we’ve learned about Twin Earth Records thus far into the long-established label’s recent surge of activity is that it knows tone when it hears it. Thus comes treading Bastard Lord out of Buffalo, New York, whose four-song self-titled debut was initially self-released and remastered for a CD issue, rumble-fuzzing a murky Sabbath worship that oozes from the amps of bassist/vocalist David Braymiller and guitarist Mike Hermann – hard to tell at times in 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cimmerian” where the one instrument ends and the other begins – and set to a suitable plod by Jeremy Coupe’s drumming. It’s little surprise when they pay homage to “Snowblind” in “Wormwood,” but the psychedelic edge in Braymiller’s vocals – drowned in effects, buried in the mix; both appropriately so – gives Bastard Lord a personality of its own the holds even into the faster closer “Into the Sea,” a Toner Low-style lysergic depth unflinching through that song and “Summoner” before it as Bastard Lord emerge from the mire with their intentions clear.

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Twin Earth Records

Monocluster, Monocluster

monocluster monocluster

One might be forgiven for entering into Monocluster’s self-titled, self-released debut album with an expectation for traditional stoner rock, between the band’s moniker and album cover – and if that’s what came through in playing the 35-minute, five-track outing, I very likely wouldn’t complain – but the German-language four-piece subtly veer into and out of spacier interludes in cuts like “Dantes Inferno” and “8 Stunden” and the later “Ich Atme” pushes even further along those lines, jamming out vast and echoing over a foundational bassline that holds the track together before it stops outright and resurfaces with Monocluster’s most righteous single nod. Centerpiece “Straße” demonstrates a touch of Colour Haze influence as well, but on the whole the Cologne four-piece seem headed in a different direction, and as the 10-minute closer “12 Minuten” ranges farther and heavier than everything before it, I’m only more intrigued to find out where they might end up. Heavy psych that’s not afraid to tighten up and make a more pointed impact when it feels one is needed.

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Monocluster on Bandcamp

Valley, Sunburst

valley sunburst

I have two reasons for writing a review of Valley’s Sunburst EP, and they are both ridiculously simple. Yes, the Swedish five-piece were featured in two podcasts (one here, one here) and mentioned in the roundup of 2015’s best short releases – however, reviewing Sunburst now gives me another excuse to put it back on and it gives me something to fall back to later when I’m praising the crap out of whatever they do next and want to link a past review. Simple reasons. If you haven’t yet heard the 2015 debut outing from the Stockholm post-heavy rock instrumentalists, basked in the warm, organic psychedelia of “Tunguska” and “Kiro” or the peaceful folk-jam of “Dream Shooter, Golden!” and the tense-and-release percussion and sample-topped progressive course of “Picture Puzzle Pattern Door,” then you have quite simply missed out. I’m sure plenty have and plenty more will liken it to a desert sound – in no small part because of the cover art – but the smooth melodicism goes beyond landscape here and is made to be appreciated regardless of climate or locale.

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Version Studio Records

Shatner, EP

shatner ep

An edge of Northeastern aggression is unmistakable at the core of Shatner’s 20-minute self-released six-track EP. Based in Boston, the tree-piece boasts guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (Black Thai, We’re all Gonna Die), bassist/backing vocalist Jesse Sherman (We’re all Gonna Die) and drummer Rob Davol (Cocked ‘n’ Loaded), and so a touch of anger isn’t unexpected given the personnel – even Healey’s acoustic work has brooding tension underlying – but if “Special” and “Black Market Liver” are variations on an ongoing theme, they’re of consistent quality in terms of songwriting, and the Thin Lizzy cover “Bad Reputation” is positioned well just past the halfway point to add variety amid a slew of potent hooks. Not their first time working together, but Healey and Sherman’s voices complement each other well on “Dead in Your Eyes” and “Death Reheated,” and with the solid foundation that Davol provides throughout, Shatner’s EP is an encouraging start to what’s hopefully an ongoing development.

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Shatner on Bandcamp

Australasia, Notturno

australasia-notturno

Harvested, sometimes manipulated samples and synthesized textures permeate Notturno, the mostly-instrumental second album from Italian atmospheric project Australasia. Comprised solely of Gian Spalluto, it’s somewhat more surprising that songs like the cascading “Lumen” and “Kern” are able to conjure such full-band progressions, but layering was bound to be a factor one way or another in Australasia’s approach, so if it’s Spalluto’s vision at play, so be it. Sonically, the impression of much of the material – including the guest-vocalized centerpiece “Invisibile” – winds up somewhere between the dystopian ambience of Red Sparowes and the brighter aspirations of post-black metallers Alcest, but songs like “Haxo” and the closing title-track, a (mostly) solo piano piece, have a cinematic edge as well. Rather than play one side against the other, Spalluto brings them together in one overarching flow that engages conceptually and sonically throughout a nine-track/39-minute course that willfully refuses to acknowledge a line between post-rock and post-metal.

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Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings

The Moth Gatherer, The Earth is the Sky

the moth gatherer the earth is the sky

Synth ambience and distorted severity meet head-on with the second full-length from Swedish post-metallers The Moth Gatherer, The Earth is the Sky (on Agonia Records). Produced over a two-year span with Karl Daniel Lidén (Greenleaf, VAKA, etc.), it punishes intensely on “The Black Antlers” with no less underlying fluidity than it had on the quietly atmospheric “Dyatlov Pass” preceding, the four-piece of bassist/vocalist Alex Stjernfeldt, guitarist/vocalist/programmer Victor Wegeborn, guitarist Ronny Westphal and drummer Svante Karlsson finding a place sound-wise that swaps between peaceful and threatening, delving into extreme progressive metal and electronica in kind on “Attacus Atlas” while setting up the consuming, gradual push of 11-minute closer “In Awe Before the Rapture,” which seems in conversation with the synth of the earlier “Probing the Descent of Man” in creating a layered structure of sound, while also attempting to marry the various impulses displayed throughout. Familiar to a degree, but immersive in its bringing earth and sky together.

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Agonia Records

Super Witch, Super Witch has Risen

super witch super witch has risen

You might wonder just what kind of neighborhood it is that would pair “The House that Dripped Blood” next door to “House of Warlocks” – perhaps that street is on the “Island of Lost Souls” – but then you probably wouldn’t get the crux of Memphis heavy punk foursome Super Witch’s debut full-length, Super Witch Has Risen, which has tales of horror front to back, “Spaceship Cadillac” notwithstanding. The Tennessean outfit dip into garage grunge on “Night of the Hunter” and stomp out call and response and Melvins chug on on “The Need,” show some more patient swing on “Smash Your Own Face,” but it’s “Army of Werewolves” and the opening “Super Witch Has Risen” that tell the story of the band’s intent more than the semi-swirl of “Smash Your Own Face” or the all-the-way swirl of closer “With the Lights Out,” as satisfying as the closer is in pulling off a rare feat – psychedelic punk. Split between two recording sessions, there are some changes in sound throughout, but it would take a supernatural force to derail Super Witch from their underlying purpose.

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Super Witch on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2015

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 20 short releases of 2015

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.

Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.

I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.

Here we go:

foehammer foehammer

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015

1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split

Honorable Mention

The Sunburst EP by Valley continues to resonate, as do splits from Goya & Wounded Giant and King Buffalo & Lé Betre. plus Derelics‘ IntroducingTime Rift‘s demo, the Carpet 7″, Watchtower‘s EP, Eternal Black‘s debut demo, Dorre‘s half-hour single One Collapsed at the Altar, and Mount Desert‘s two-songer all deserve serious consideration, as well I’m sure as many others.

Notes

It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.

A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.

Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them WitchesA Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.

Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.

Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.

Please note: I can, in no way, take it.

Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.

Thanks for reading.

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audiObelisk Transmission 055

Posted in Podcasts on December 14th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Before we get to all the tracks and this and that, I have to say, this double-size year-end podcast was an absolute pleasure to put together. Fun. Actual fun. I don’t know if it was the preponderance of excellent songs to work from that came out in 2015 or what, but I had a really good time making my way through the near-four-hour run, and I hope you feel that way too as you listen.

It should go without mentioning, but I’ll give the disclaimer anyway that this is in no way, shape or form a complete rundown of everything awesome produced this year. My own Top 10 has bands on it who aren’t represented here, so if you don’t see something you think belongs in the mix below — looking at you, Baroness fans — please keep in mind that it’s not my intent to offer anything more than a partial summary. Otherwise, I’d have to make it a year long.

Thanks for listening if you get the chance to do so, and if there’s something here you haven’t yet checked out, I hope you dig it. The flow is pretty easy front to back, but we get into some more extreme stuff in the third hour for a bit before going grand with Elder and the “Digestive Raga” from Øresund Space Collective, which seemed an appropriate way to end off giving everyone a chance to process what’s just been heard. Please enjoy.

Track details follow:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Acid King, “Red River” from Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
0:08:24 Clutch, “Firebirds” from Psychic Warfare
0:11:23 Bloodcow, “Crystals and Lasers” from Crystals and Lasers
0:14:28 Stoned Jesus, “Rituals of the Sun” from The Harvest
0:21:25 Ufomammut, “Plouton” from Ecate
0:24:33 Geezer, “So Tired” from The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter One Split w/ Borracho
0:32:36 Wizard Eye, “Thunderbird Divine” from Wizard Eye
0:37:40 Mondo Drag, “Crystal Visions Open Eye” from Mondo Drag
0:42:08 Fogg, “Seasons” from High Testament
0:48:26 Goatsnake, “Grandpa Jones” from Black Age Blues
0:53:02 Snail, “Thou Art That” from Feral

Second Hour:
1:03:17 Sergio Ch., “Las Piedras” from 1974
1:06:40 All Them Witches, “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” from Dying Surfer Meets His Maker
1:13:54 Death Hawks, “Ripe Fruits” from Sun Future Moon
1:18:45 Colour Haze, “Call” from To the Highest Gods We Know
1:26:46 Kadavar, “Last Living Dinosaur” from Berlin
1:30:50 Spidergawd, “Fixing to Die Blues” from Spidergawd II
1:35:02 The Machine, “Dry End” from Offblast!
1:38:01 The Midnight Ghost Train, “Straight to the North” from Cold was the Ground
1:42:00 Kind, “Pastrami Blaster” from Rocket Science
1:48:29 Valley, “Dream Shooter, Golden!” from Sunburst
1:54:22 Graveyard, “From a Hole in the Wall” from Innocence and Decadence
1:58:09 Demon Head, “Book of Changes” from Ride the Wilderness

Third Hour:
2:02:50 Egypt, “Endless Flight” from Endless Flight
2:12:29 Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, “Empires of Dust” from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
2:20:09 With the Dead, “I am Your Virus” from With the Dead
2:25:45 Ahab, “Red Foam (The Great Storm)” from The Boats of the Glen Carrig
2:32:08 Kings Destroy, “Mr. O” from Kings Destroy
2:36:37 Sun and Sail Club, “Dresden Firebird Freakout” from The Great White Dope
2:38:33 Sunder, “Wings of the Sun” from Sunder
2:42:41 Weedpecker, “Into the Woods” from Weedpecker II
2:50:50 Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Pusher Man” from The Night Creeper
2:56:26 Eggnogg, “Slugworth” from Sludgy Erna Bastard split w/ Borracho

Fourth Hour:
3:02:48 Golden Void, “Astral Plane” from Berkana
3:09:34 Elder, “Lore” from Lore
3:25:24 Øresund Space Collective, “Digestive Raga” from Different Creatures

Total running time: 3:55:26

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 055

 

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audiObelisk Transmission 053

Posted in Podcasts on October 19th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Yeah, it hasn’t been that long since the last podcast, I know, but my thinking on it was like this: Doesn’t matter. First off, not like anybody’s keeping tabs to see how long it’s been between one and the next. Second, I had the time to do it and I never really know these days when that’s going to happen, so I figured better to take advantage while I could. Third, screw it, it’s music. Who’s gonna complain?

I won’t say I never know what to expect when I put a podcast together like this, but sometimes these things take unexpected turns, and that definitely happened this time. Things got pretty heavy, pretty quickly, and while there are a couple sharp cuts between sounds, I kind of wanted to make that happen to offset how far things got. Noisy, thrashy, doomy, and that’s really all in the first hour, because in the second, it’s pretty much all space. I very much enjoy the second-hour-is-psych-as-hell thing, and I gotta say, this might be the best one I’ve arranged. I’m willing to wager that as you make your way through you won’t be able to tell where one song ends and the next one starts without looking at the time stamps below. Obviously, that’s the whole idea.

Enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Gentlemans Pistols, “Time Wasters” from Hustler’s Row
0:05:46 Irata, “March by Tens” from Sweet Loris
0:10:25 Skraeckoedlan, “Gigantos” from Sagor
0:17:47 Tombstones, “Barren Fields” from Vargariis
0:27:05 With the Dead, “Crown of Burning Stars” from With the Dead
0:33:23 All Them Witches, “Open Passageways” from Dying Surfer Meets His Maker
0:36:35 Vhöl, “Red Chaos” from Deeper than Sky
0:41:37 Saviours, “Hell’s Floor” from Palace of Vision
0:45:49 Jess and the Ancient Ones, “In Levitating Secret Dreams” from Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes
0:49:01 King Dead, “The Firmament of Heaven Opened, and the Flood Waters Were upon Them,” from Woe and Judgment
0:57:35 Dave Heumann, “Switchback” from Here in the Deep

Second Hour:
1:01:26 Mammatus, “Sparkling Waters Pt. One” from Sparkling Waters
1:23:19 Valley, “Picture Puzzle Pattern Door” from Sunburst
1:33:16 Humulus, “Red Star, Winter Orbit” from Electric Walrus
1:44:29 Shabda, “Pharmakos” from Pharmakon/Pharmakos

Total running time: 2:04:54

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 053

 

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