Friday Full-Length: Shrinebuilder, Shrinebuilder

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Likewise inevitable and impossible. You take some of the most formidable players of their generation — Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Al Cisneros of Om and Sleep, Scott “Wino” Weinrich of The Obsessed (etc.) and Dale Crover of the Melvins — and put them in a band together. As groups go, that’s pretty super. It didn’t last.

Listening back to Shrinebuilder‘s 2009 self-titled debut (review here), released through Neurot Recordings with cover art by Josh Graham (who probably should’ve been in the band too), the novelty of the idea is still hard to overcome. Maybe if Shrinebuilder had become a real working band — that is, one that took priority over everyone else’s other projects; no minor ask in this case — and had put out two or three more records by now, it would be easier to divorce the five songs of the 39-minute offering from the people behind them, but I remember when this album came in the mail, and the premise remains exciting, bringing these artists together and seeing what comes out.

Driven mostly by the riffs of Kelly and WeinrichShrinebuilder nonetheless gave everyone their space. In album opener “Solar Benediction,” the two guitarists trade verses early, with Kelly‘s gruff delivery playing off Wino‘s wizened sneer, before an e-bow topped break, hypnotic in its layered stretch, builds back up to a crawling final crush, and it’s not until the subsequent “Pyramid of the Moon” that Cisneros arrives on mic. He does so in the fashion of a wandering mystic. The foundation on which the changes from one riff to another and one apparent songwriter to another could hardly be more solid than to have Dale Crover on drums. Find me someone more used to going wherever the hell the song is going to go who already happens to be friends with all of these others. And he holds “Pyramid of the Moon” together through volume ebbs and flows, Kelly‘s vocal subdued early as they move toward a kind of vocal-drone chanting midsection and, with a few cymbal hits, into Cisneros‘ first verse of the record and the second lyrical mention of Jericho in the span of two songs.

That itself is emblematic of what’s largely been lost in Shrinebuilder‘s Shrinebuilder and certainly was at the time. Its songs are loaded with nuance. The subtle layer of guitar effects bolstering the atmosphere behind the second verse of “Pyramid of the Moon” — could be more e-bow, could be something else — or the acoustic guitar layered into the back end of “Solar Benediction.” As much as that leadoff track and the entire LP that follows is typified by that first moment when Kelly arrives to declare, “We stand burning before you/Returning wisdom with blood,” even the interplay between bass and drums as that ambient buildup takes place moving into the second half of the song is worth the headphone listen.

And Shrinebuilder continues to offer depth all across its span, whether its the vocals harmonizing with Kelly in the first half of centerpiece “Blind for All to See” — is that Crover? — or the march in that final riff as theshrinebuilder shrinebuilder song seems to just kind of come apart into a psychedelic ether, moving into “The Architect,” which feels Wino-driven in its guitar progression early, that twisting style, only to give way to Kelly again — and maybe Crover too, or Cisneros, it’s hard to tell even now — in a thicker movement that caps the shortest song on the record and what might’ve been at least a partial working model for the band had they opted to go forward, lacking the turns of “Solar Benediction” or the nine-minute closer “Science of Anger” that immediately follows, but a basic structure from which they might’ve pushed ahead. So it goes.

Shred comes early in “Science of Anger” and hits over at least two layers of rhythm guitar before the first verse — if you want to guess who wrote that lead-style riff, I’d put even money on Kelly or Wino — but the energetic feel from that first solo is mirrored in the drums and carries over to a feeling of spaciousness as guitars to twist and intertwine between the next two verses. Vocals are again layered without ceremony to which they’d be well entitled, and as Kelly‘s guttural voice rises to consume seemingly everything in its path, consider the layered-in echo of the words “twisted formations” at 3:33 as further evidence of Shrinebuilder‘s orientation toward detail. They didn’t just throw these songs together with parts by one person or the other. They could’ve. But even in the progression of the album as a whole, they saved both Wino joining Kelly in that heavier part and a mic-return from Cisneros for last. They built an album.

The transition to Cisneros, prefaced by a turn toward more of an Om-style march, is somewhat awkward, or at least rhythmically counterintuitive as to when he actually starts singing at 5:28, but it all starts to make its own kind of sense as the track gradually builds toward its earthen-psychedelic finish, a suitable payoff but a relatively gentle touch for a record that’s been nothing if not liberal in throwing its weight around, tonally-speaking.

As noted, Shrinebuilder didn’t last. I was fortunate enough to interview Al Cisneros for the album (I don’t think I’m cool enough to get that interview these days, so I’m proud of that one), and to see the band in New York in Nov. 2009 (review here). I was drunk and uncomfortable at Le Poisson Rouge, out of my league in its New York-ness. I don’t remember much about the show, to be honest, other than they was awesome. That was one of a few tours Shrinebuilder did; they’d also hit the West Coast and Europe before everyone went their own way again. In 2011, they put a 13-minute version of “Science of Anger” out as a single (discussed here) through Coextinction Recordings — the idea of a digital-only label was also a novelty at the time — and they’d follow with Live in Europe 2010 (discussed here) that year as well, releasing on vinyl through My Proud Mountain.

I’m not sure if more Shrinebuilder would be worth trading the last decade of material from these players — Kelly‘s records with NeurosisCorrections House, and solo, as well as the Sleep reunion, Wino‘s ill-fated regroup with Saint Vitus before reviving Spirit Caravan and The Obsessed in succession, or even Crover‘s ongoing Melvins-being-Melvins — but since it didn’t happen the point is moot. Everyone is still alive, so never say never, but as it stands, this self-titled is a moment that’s passed and doesn’t look likely to come again. Fair enough. Particularly in terms of how well it’s stood up to the last 12 years, still delivering something new on a random revisit on a random week, one couldn’t ask for more than they gave.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

In New Jersey, where I live, the office of child welfare is called Child Protective Services. When I was a kid, it was called DYFS, the Division of Youth and Family Services, or some such. My mother used to say DYFS was gonna come and take me away if I didn’t behave. Fair enough.

CPS came to the house this past weekend because The Pecan broke his leg and it’s his second significant fracture in about two months’ time, following of course his cracking his skull falling on the basement floor in March. I think it’s largely because we’re white and living in suburban comfort in a nice, relatively clean house (I could stand to vacuum), that they didn’t allege significant abuse, but they definitely asked. “Hey, you ever spank your kid?” I said I swat his butt to get him to go up the stairs — not with a broken leg, obviously — but never in a disciplining manner so much as playful.

I guess a toddler — worse, this toddler — with a spiral-fractured tibia is what I get for calling out one of my parenting nightmares last Friday in noting that he’d pooped in the tub. This is life, people.

He was going down the twisty slide with The Patient Mrs. after tee-ball, juked when he should’ve jived, and snapped it. He and I had gone down the same slide in the same way just minutes before. A fluke thing. In our postgame analysis of the event, The Patient Mrs. and I examined both whether he needs more calcium in his diet — he doesn’t drink milk but his doctor has never remarked on significant lacks in his bloodwork — and whether we’re terrible parents. I’m pretty much convinced of my own awfulness, and The Pecan himself is unilaterally mommy-centered enough to articulate his confirmation of same, but neither this nor his fall a couple months back were really anyone’s fault. I blame myself for both, but that’s just parenting shit (or, in my case, shit parenting; I failed even before I started). It’s unfortunate timing.

Which is basically what we said to not-DYFS. They were supposed to send a follow-up later in the week and no one came. Fine.

He can walk with help at this point. A little more movement every day. No school this week, which has meant I get up early to work. He goes for follow-up imaging today and a second orthopedist appointment on Monday. At urgent care last Saturday right after it happened, they scared The Patient Mrs. with talk of surgery — some residual trauma factoring in from our hospital stay post-skull fracture there, I should think — but it doesn’t look like he’ll need any rods or anything as of now. He’s in a boot. Might need a cast. We’ll see on Monday. His entire being stinks. Hasn’t had a bath in more than a week. I’ve been wiping him down every day, but he’s “cheesy,” as we often joke. “Ya cheesy,” he says.

That’s been the week. That and maintain, and both have been a challenge. It has brought into light how fortunate we are to live minutes from my family — a support system we simply didn’t have when we were living in Massachusetts — for not the first time, but that is especially vivid after vaccination. We are lucky to be where we are, in this house. I have hard times. A lot. In my head. A lot. Every day I speak to myself in Bad Voice. I should like to actively work more on being thankful than being a miserable bastard like my own father. It is an aspiration. A challenge. I fail more often.

The kid’s up and has been for a while — we’ve been joking this week about “loafing” in bed — and it’s quarter-to-eight, so I’m gonna head upstairs and help him get down, get breakfast going. Thanks for reading and have a great and safe weekend. Watch your head, hydrate, all that stuff.


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Wino Wednesday: Shrinebuilder, Full Set Live in Baltimore, 11.13.09

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

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If time has taught us anything at all about rock and roll, it’s never say never. Shrinebuilder put out its self-titled debut in 2009 on Neurot Recordings with the staggering lineup of bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarist/vocalists Scott Kelly and Scott “Wino” Weinrich and drummer/vocalist Dale Crover, played here and there, followed-up with a single and a live record, played some more shows, and then receded. It was never intended to be a full-time project, and when they were done, everyone went back to their own bands, whether it was Sleep and Om for CisnerosSaint Vitus for WinoNeurosis and solo work for Kelly or the Melvins for Crover. Rumors of a second album persisted for a while and then similarly receded.

We may never get another Shrinebuilder record. Hell, we might not even get another Shrinebuilder tour, or a single show, but it seems just as likely that at some point and in some form — whether with all four of the same players or not — they’ll get together again for some purpose or other. The full set snagged for this week’s Wino Wednesday revelry was filmed by TubeVision, a long-running East Coast taper, and captures Shrinebuilder on their inaugural run from Nov. 2009, not yet a month after the release of the self-titled, live in full force at the Sonar in Baltimore, Maryland. I was fortunate enough two nights later to see Shrinebuilder take the stage in Manhattan with Rwake (review here), and while it was just over five years ago now, I can still readily recall the powerful presence they had as a band on stage and the weight the performance carried because of who it was standing up there.

They might or they might not ever do another album, but whatever winds up happening, we were lucky enough to get it once. Hope you enjoy the video:

Shrinebuilder, Live at The Sonar, Baltimore, MD, 11.13.09

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Wino Wednesday: Shrinebuilder, “We Let the Hell Come” Live at Scion Rock Fest 2010

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 17th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

The track “We Let the Hell Come” would wind up as one of the most memorable songs on Scott Kelly‘s 2012 Scott Kelly and the Road Home album, The Forgiven Ghost in Me. Interpreted with subtle, still-minimalist interplay of electric and acoustic guitar and Kelly‘s mournful, gravel-throated wonderings, it was a highlight of the record (review here), engaging with a sweet, sad melody and the persistent strum of Kelly‘s strings. Little in that version would link “We Let the Hell Come” to its prior interpretation — the song having been performed over two years earlier live by Shrinebuilder.

At the very start of the video below, filmed at Skully’s in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the 2010 Scion Rock Fest — Shrinebuilder headlined that venue for the night; YOB, Pelican, Acrassicauda and others also played — the band says that “We Let the Hell Come” will be on the next record. It may well still be, but more than three years later, a follow-up to Shrinebuilder‘s 2009 self-titled debut (review here) has yet to surface, and with the band’s members — Kelly (also in Neurosis), Scott “Wino” Weinrich (also in The Obsessed and Saint Vitus at this point, as well as putting out solo material), Dale Crover (the Melvins) and Al Cisneros (Sleep and Om) — busy with their respective main outfits, it may be that Shrinebuilder was a one-time planetary alignment that we won’t be fortunate enough to see again.

If that’s the case, all the better that clips like this one of “We Let the Hell Come” are out there — the song also showed up on Shrinebuilder‘s Live in Europe 2010 vinyl, which I regret not buying when I had the chance — to give a sampling of what might’ve been or, who knows, might still be when and if there’s a second Shrinebuilder outing. This video was filmed by Chris Kimbrough and I hope you enjoy and have an excellent Wino Wednesday:

Shrinebuilder, “We Let the Hell Come” Live at Scion Rock Fest 2010

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Wino Wednesday: Shrinebuilder Covers Creedence Clearwater Revival in Brooklyn, April 16, 2010

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 3rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

I guess this show and the circumstances surrounding have become something of a tale to tell. In 2010, the supergroup Shrinebuilder were en route to play Roadburn and tour Europe to promote their self-titled debut and only album to date. Coming from the Western Seaboard, where all the members of the band — Scott Kelly and Wino on guitar/vocals, Al Cisneros on bass and Dale Crover on drums — were located, they got as far as New York before their flight was grounded like so many others at the time.

Not to be completely undone by that volcano — whose mere name, Eyjafjallajökull, strikes syllabic terror into the hearts of pronunciation guides everywhere — Shrinebuilder booked themselves a last-minute gig at Brooklyn’s Club Europa. While they were in town, they also recorded a session with Andrew Schneider for Coextinction Recordings that’s been featured here before. They had been to New York for a show about a month before and of course around the time the album came out as well in 2009 (review here), but as it was such a bizarre situation, and as they haven’t been back since, the Europa show has taken on a mystical kind of quality — not that anything these guys did wouldn’t already have had one.

Shrinebuilder did finally get to Europe, and they played Roadburn in 2011 as not the only act on the bill to be carried over from the year before. A self-released Live in Europe 2010 vinyl commemorated the experience, but since they basically started out as a headlining act because of the members’ pedigree in Neurosis, Sleep, Saint Vitus (etc.) and the Melvins, those earlier Shrinebuilder shows featured a couple covers, and on this one from Brooklyn of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Effigy,” Crover and Wino show a classic rocking side of Shrinebuilder that was unlike anything else they did.

Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

Shrinebuilder, “Effigy” at Europa, Brooklyn 04.16.10

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Wino Wednesday: Shrinebuilder’s Shrinebuilder (Yes, all of it)

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 10th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Next Saturday, Oct. 20, will mark three full years since Shrinebuilder‘s self-titled debut was released on Neurot. The most super of supergroups unleashed five tracks and just under 40 minutes of exploration, at times devastatingly heavy, at times contemplatively ambient, but always in motion and never predictable. Three years later, I still don’t think I have a grip on all of it — though I did a review when it came out — and even though the status of the band is unclear at this point, I’m not sure more time is going to help.

If you have to be outclassed, though, Shrinebuilder is the cast to do it. I’ll run down the list because it’s fun: Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Scott “Wino” Weinrich (The Obsessed, this feature, etc.), Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om) and Dale Crover (the Melvins), all contributing to the complex, driving psychedelic heaviness that successfully blended the approaches of its members. I spent a year in fanboy nerd-out mode waiting for it, and when it came, was certain my days were well spent.

I’ve griped about the longevity of Shrinebuilder‘s Shrinebuilder before, that I didn’t go back to it after 2009 and so forth, and I suppose that’s true, though I think it’s more on me than the album. In any case, with zero prospects of a follow-up anytime soon, I figure the full-length is ripe for a revisit, and if you’re gonna listen to a record with Wino on it, Wednesday’s the day.

Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

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Wino Wednesday: Pro-Shot Footage of Shrinebuilder Live in Belgium from 2010

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 23rd, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Of all the Wino-type excellence 2012 has so far wrought — be that in the form of the collaboration with Conny Ochs or the reunion of The Obsessed at Roadburn — news on the Shrinebuilder front has been curiously sparse. I guess the dudes involved are busy with their main projects, whether it’s Wino with Saint Vitus and his sundry other outfits, Scott Kelly with Neurosis, Al Cisneros with Om and Sleep, or Dale Crover with the Melvins, but I had thought the follow up to their 2009 self-titled would be along this year, and it seems like there would’ve been some word by now if that was going to be the case.

Maybe it’s for the best, since I don’t know if I’d trade the output and shows of all those bands for the prospect of new Shrinebuilder anyway, but whenever the second album from this underground megagroup arrives, it’ll be interesting to hear how or if they build at all on the direction they seemed to be taking with the debut. They were playing new material as early as their European tour in 2010, delayed as much of life was that spring by volcanic activity in Iceland. That tour resulted in the Live in Europe 2010 live album last year, but for a band of this magnitude, it’s hard not to want a new studio offering as soon as possible.

Lurking my way around the TubesofYou, I stumbled on this pro-shot, multi-angle clip of the new songs “Nagas 1 & 2” coupled with “Pyramid of the Moon,” filmed in Belgium at De Kreun in Kortrijk. Credit where it’s due, apparently the crew behind the cameras was 4×4 TV. My only regret is that it wasn’t uploaded in HD, but I don’t even remember if you could do that two years ago. One more reason Shrinebuilder needs to get out there again.

So yeah, here’s 21 minutes solid of ritualistic psych groove. Happy Wino Wednesday:

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Wino Wednesday: Shrinebuilder, “The Science of Anger” (Coextinction Version)

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 9th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Surprise! It's Wino Wednesday!It is a supergroup to define a generation of heavy. Guitarists Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Scott Kelly (Neurosis), bassist Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om) and drummer Dale Crover (the Melvins). I remember interviewing Kelly on the occasion of the last Neurosis record and that being the first time I’d heard of the project or anything about who was involved. My reaction was fanboy honest: “Holy shit, dude.” His was too: “I know, man.”

The assemblage of these mega-influential figures resulted in a 2009 self-titled full-length, released on Neurot, and subsequent bits of touring and shows. While traveling en route to Roadburn in 2010, Shrinebuilder were held up in New York due to closed European airspace from Icelandic volcanic ash. They wound up playing a gig in the city that night, and, in addition to catching a ballgame and sundry other “we’re here anyway”-type activities, re-recorded their album’s closer “The Science of Anger.”

This new version of the song, reworked to match how they were performing it live, was released as a digital single via Coextinction Recordings. It’s available for a $2.99 download here and is all the more special for the bizarre circumstances that led to its creation. As we stand on the hopeful precipice of a new Shrinebuilder outing in 2012, I can think of no better way to celebrate this Wino Wednesday than their most cohesive outing yet.

Now bear witness as Wino and Scott Kelly turn feedback into your gods:

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Live Review: Scott Kelly, Wino and Man’s Gin in NYC, 02.12.11

Posted in Reviews on February 14th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

If it wasn’t enough that it was The Patient Mrs.‘ birthday and I still got to go to the show, I knew walking into The Mercury Lounge that it was going to be a good night because the dude at the door said, “Hey man, I dig your beard.” Had it been anyone else playing that night, I might have just cut my losses and gone home right then, opened up my diary (or WordPress) and written, “Today was a good day.” Instead I celebrated with an $8 Sierra Nevada.

I figured out the last time I was at the Mercury Lounge was a couple years back to see Dax Riggs, and though I expected my skin to be burned off in hipster hell, it wasn’t actually that bad. Well, maybe it was, but the last acoustic show I went to was Six Organs of Admittance, and the volume of that crowd was so loud it was offensive, and that definitely wasn’t the case here. I don’t care how ironic your flannel is so long as you’re there for the music and you’re not a dick about it.

Opening the show was Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of black metallers Liturgy doing a solo performance that turned out to be him, a looper, some vocal effects, and nothing else. His voice mimicked strings and he set up elaborate choruses of himself over the course of a couple separate pieces. It was brave, but probably not something that should be done for more than 10 minutes at a stretch, as after that the “What the hell am I doing here?” impulse kicked in and I went to the bar out front for another drink and to wait for Man’s Gin. People were in and out from the back room and I could hear just fine in case he, you know, took out a guitar or something. Nope. Semi-melodic moaning all the way.

The plan for the night was Man’s Gin, then Wino, then Scott Kelly, then Wino and Scott Kelly together, and it was a good plan by me. I dug Man’s Gin‘s Smiling Dogs record and was psyched to see the Erik Wunder-fronted outfit in their full-band incarnation after when I last caught them at Lit Lounge and it was just Wunder and standup-bassist Josh Lozano with percussion behind. Fade Kainer (Inswarm, Batillus) handled drums and Scott Edward guitar, and they were loose, but sounded good all the same.

They got a mixed reaction from the crowd, but it seemed more positive than ambivalent, which translates to triumph in Manhattan. Everyone in attendance who was conscious of their surroundings during the grunge era probably had a better idea of what they were going for than those who weren’t, whatever that says. Highlight of the set was the Neurosis-style drum jam at the end and “Doggamn.” Still waiting for them to do “The Ballad of Jimmy Sturgis” live.

It was a party when Wino took the stage, and that spirit continued through his set, numerous whoops and hollers coming from the crowd. Wino, up there by himself with just an acoustic guitar, couldn’t help but rip into a fuzzed-out solo about halfway in, but aside from playing them a bit faster (as he acknowledged he had a tendency to do in our interview), he was loyal to the versions of the songs that appear on his Adrift album. The split 7″ single he shares with Scott Kelly was mentioned as being for sale for just $5 — end of tour blowout price — and it seemed only proper to pick one up.

He covered Townes Van Zandt, as would Kelly when he took the stage later, but the highlight of Wino‘s set was probably “I Don’t Care,” which he prefaced with a story about being 15 and getting locked up in a Maryland juvenile detention center and writing the song then. It was one of my least favorite tracks on Adrift, but the performance live and the context made it a high point of the evening. I actually saw people dance. It happened.

The thing about Wino is that, even if he’s doing something else (i.e. playing acoustic), he’s a classic rock songwriter, and he can’t help but rock out. He brought the crowd along with him for the trip, and when Scott Kelly took the stage later, it was clear that, despite their apparent friendship and cohabitation in the supergroup Shrinebuilder, they’re two very different performers.

Scott Kelly plays s-l-o-w. He’s really, really good at it. The room — apart from one dude who decided it would be a good idea to accompany Kelly‘s guitar by banging on a cinderblock and eventually brought the show to a screeching halt — was dead quiet. So much so that Kelly remarked approvingly on it more than once (we did good!) as he went through his set of morose, low-key but still highly emotive songs. He covered his half of the split with Wino, taking three tries to get through the song because of the aforementioned cinderblock jackass, and by the time his version of “Tecumseh Valley” was done, my arrived-at conclusion of the evening became, “Well, I guess it’s time to buy a Townes Van Zandt record.” He made a pretty convincing argument.

I had been hoping for “Remember Me,” which originally appeared on Blood and Time‘s At the Foot of the Garden before Kelly re-recorded it for his last solo album, the brilliant The Wake. That was a no dice, but the new Shrinebuilder song Kelly brought Wino on stage to play, and the jam that ensued from there, was more than enough to make up for anything lacking. The crowd had thinned some by the time they were done, but not much, and those who were there were entranced by what they were watching. Wino took leads (higher in the mix, or maybe it was where I was standing) while Kelly played rhythms, and each guitarist seemed to enjoy most of all the chance to be on stage with the other. It was something I was glad to have witnessed when it was over.

Something I was less glad about was having lost the ticket from coatcheck. Whoops. It really is a wonder I’m not divorced by now. The Patient Mrs. and I stood, describing the contents of her coat pockets to the heavy-sighs of the girl at the rack, and eventually, we got her jacket and left. I don’t know if it was her best birthday ever, and I don’t know if it’s the only time I’m ever going to get to see Wino and Scott Kelly perform together in this fashion (they looked to be having a good enough time that I wouldn’t be surprised if they did it again at some point), but man, if ever there was a time I was happy to be in New York on a Saturday night, this was it.

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