Archive for the ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”


GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: WOLF ALICE-My Love is Cool (2015).

I liked this album when it came out, but it didn’t blow me away.  I enjoyed the band blend of shoegaze and grunge.  But when I listened to it more, I realized there was a lot more going on–some folk roots, some interesting electronic sounds and a surprising pop sensibility.

When I saw them live at a small club in Asbury Park, the band blew me away with their cathartic sound and really tight rhythms.  They were also quite a bit heavier loud–really rocking out some of these songs and speeding up the tempo, too.

As such, the album feels a little slow, but if you get past that (and you should) it works really well to all of the band’s strengths.

“Turn to Dust” opens with gentle guitars and trippy electronic sounds (that one descending note is great).  Ellie Roswell sings softly with a gentle echo (I like that you can hear her accent in some of the words too).  It’s a fantastic opening.  “Bros.” speeds things up a bit but it doesn’t get any heavier, yet.  “You’re Love’s Whore” has a cool bass line and low backing vocals.   Like the other two songs, it’s also very catchy.

“You’re a Germ” adds some loud guitars to the music.  There’s a lot going on in this song and it kind of forces its way into your brain: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 / you ain’t going to heaven / cause I’m dragging you down to hell.”  It’s the first time Roswell screams and she’s got quite the shriek.  “Lisbon” slows things down until the wildly chaotic chorus (featuring some insane drumming).  “Silk” is a slower, moodier song with interesting whispered vocals.  The chorus once again proves to be very catchy the way the music falls out but the vocals get bigger.

“Freazy” has a cool drumbeat and a shuffling rhythm.  “Giant Peach” has an unexpected bass line midway through the song.  But the biggest surprise comes with “Swallowtail.”  It’s a folkie acoustic song and it’s sing by drummer Joel Amey.  It is really quite a surprise to hear a different voice, but it works really well.  It’s got a really interesting chorus with Amey hitting a nice falsetto midway through.  I fond it to be a real earworm.

“Soapy Water” is a more pop-oriented song with heavy synths, but it’s go their unmistakable thump.  “Fluffy” rocks the album to an end.  Its got screaming guitars and a wonderful buildup to the screaming chorus of “Sixteen, so sweet.”  (This song really rocks, live).

The final song is a quiet song with thumping tom toms.  The vocal melody is a gentle rising and falling melody with quiet guitars.   Tacked on the end is a bonus song, called “My Love is Cool.”  It’s a minute and a half of quiet guitar and Roswell’s almost whispered singing.

The band covers a lot of territory on this album, but they own it all pretty well.  It’s worth a listen.

[READ: January 30, 2018] “Bronze”

I’d be very surprised if this was not an excerpt.  It just feels too big for it to be a short story (although it wraps up in a rather tidy manner).

There are two major threads running through it.  There’s one set in 1978 when a college freshman, Eugene, is returning to school on the train.  He was high and he was dressed flamboyantly–a white fur coat, pink sunglasses, a scarf at his neck. He wanted to be beautiful or at least noticeable.  He was seeking a seat, but the train was packed.

Eugene was late to the train because he was hanging out at his friend Stigwood’s house in New York City.  Stigwood had a boyfriend from Venezuela visiting.  Eugene and Raphael were hanging out when Stigwood came home and stuck his hand down Raphael’s pants–which made Raphael shout “I am not your slut!”  Eugene watched, fascinated, before realizing he was late for the train and he ran all the way to the station.

Eugene wanted to be a poet so when he got to the space between trains he recited out loud Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.”  It calmed him.

In the next car a man offered him a  seat.  Eugene thought, “Not again, everywhere I go.” (more…)

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I have seen Kings of Spade twice (both times opening for King’s X).  I have never heard of them outside of these shows.  And yet, they seem to have a pretty good following (especially in their native Hawaii).

Their website describes them as “blues rock from Hawaii” and that’s pretty apt.  They certainly groove in the rocking blues.  They are fronted by a fantastic, powerful singer named Kasi Nunes.  She formed the band along with guitarist Jesse Savio.  There’s also drummer Matt Kato, bassist Max Benoit, turntablist DJ A2Z and percussionist Obie 1.

“Crave” opens the disc with some great bluesy grooves and solos all under the power of Nunes’ wail.  “Boys in the Band” is a song they still play and it works great in concert.  The recorded version features a turntablist, which they do not have live.  The song has a cool break where you get to hear Nunes’ voice unaffected as she sings the title.

“Funk” adds some horns, although not a lot of funk, which is fine.  It works more as soul with scratchy wah wah guitars.

“Weight on My Shoulders” is a strange song.  It has the riff and melody of “Crimson and Clover,” a song I don’t really like.  But the lyrics of the chorus focus on the weight of the world being on her shoulders (to the tune of “waitin’ to show her”).  The verses are the big surprise because the song turns into a rap.  Nunes’ flow is pretty good, but it’s more about her lyrics than her delivery.  She raps about growing up and the awkwardness of being a woman at 25.  Nunes is all about women and feminism.

“Keep On” starts with her saying “to the most beautiful, this is from X-Factor (X-Factor was their name before they became Kings of Spade).  This is a groovy song with Nunes’ rapping and the turntablist working away.  There’s more horns as well.  It rocks pretty well, and there are two sections that change the style of the song in an effective way.  I like the end where the song switches tone into a more menacing-sounding thump.

“Move On” rocks along, very catchy and fun with some cool organ underneath the riffage.  Until the middle when it really slows down to a kind of Janis Joplin vein.  The first time i saw them, they played a fantastic version of Piece of My Heart (Nunes hits the marks really well).

I’m not sure if it was well-known that Nunes is a lesbian.  She doesn’t mention it until song 7.  But she’s certainly not hiding the fact because the whole of “Don’t Hate Me” is about her coming out experience.  It’s a powerful tour de force (which is rapped as well) that covers many bases about coming out–parents, classmates, friends, community.  She sings about “growing up a baby dyke” and spending years as “a closet homo” before finally reaching a place where “a hater’s lame opinion can’t cause me any strife.”   I love the metaphor about building

The final song shows off yet another style of the band.  “Secret Lover” is a slow acoustic song with a kind of Spanish feel.  It’s a love song to a secret lover (no one will ever measure up to you) which I can’t decide if it’s awesome or sad (is the secret a good one?).

This is a solid album.  It’s a bit all over the place, trying out different sounds.  They will step things up for their next album (and Kasi will adopt her now-trademark red Mohawk).

[READ: July 26, 2016] “Alice”

This is the life story of a little girl.  It is told by a distant, almost disinterested narrator, and this narrator fits the girls’ life as well.

Living in Australia, Alice had red-gold sausage curls.  She had lovely hair and thick creamy skin and gray-blue eyes.  Her disposition could be summed up as “it is good to be good.”

Her mother was Scottish-born and was irrational, quickly tempered and noisy: “she had no feelings.”

Alice’s mother didn’t regard her at all.  After her mother had two boys, they consumed all of her attention.  Alice became nursemaid and nanny to her brothers. Any problem became Alice’s fault.   And even though people looked at her and admired her, once they realized that this would gain no favor with her mother, they admired her brothers instead. (more…)

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The Big Fit is a slicker and more satisfying album from this duo.  Their songs are still noisy and abrasive and neither singer holds back, but overall the songs sound even better (I’m sure it’s the production as well).

“Oddie Moore” starts out quietly with just Peyton singing and then Kelli joining her (showing off some nice singing and harmonies) and a really catchy melody.

But it’s “Perfume for Now” that really shows how much their songwriting has jumped in one album.  It begins quietly with some cool bass lines and Kelli’s quieter singing.  Then comes the chorus in which Kelli sing/screams a line and Peyton basically just melodically screams a punctuation mark.  It’s terrific.  Then just to add to the tension, there’s a quiet bridge: “I know you wanted to be class white trash / Or were you going for class clown?”  And when they join together at the end of the chorus in harmony it’s really great.  I can’t help but feel that this song encapsulates the Skating Polly sound perfectly (and it was amazing live).

“Pretective Boy” switches things up a both with a poppier sound and some cool vocal parts from both singers.  “Cosmetic Skull” (whatever that means) is a piano-based song–a big change of pace with the sweet tribute to their matriarch: “I want to dance with Exene, coz she can lead.”  It’s a quieter song that shows that they’re not just all screams and feedback.  Their dual vocals at the end sound really cool, too.

“Nothing More Than a Body” has a simple, quiet guitar-chugging opening.  But rather than just the chugging chords, each line ends with three picked notes–it’s those little details that elevate these songs.  Kelli’s interesting “oooh” backing vocals that changes styles between lines are also a nice touch.  And then there’s the big chorus with the backing vocals mixed almost creepily in the mix.

“Hey Sweet” is a blistering noisy blast of a song–screamed by Kelli with a relentless bad-ass guitar riff.  Even a fast blast like this is 3 minutes long–these girls do not slouch when it comes to songwriting.

I was puzzled by “Morning Dew” because it sounded so unlike them and seemed so…odd.  I had no idea that it was written in the 1960s by Bonnie Dobson.  I thought it was such an odd song that a person is saying he heard someone and the other voice say she did not (in the Skating Polly version, Kelli screams this section as it turns into blistering punk).  I was really puzzled by the song and have now found out: “The song is a dialogue between the last man and woman left alive following an apocalyptic catastrophe: Dobson has stated that the initial inspiration for “Morning Dew” was the film On the Beach which is focused on the survivors of virtual global annihilation by nuclear holocaust. The actual writing of the song occurred in 1961 while Dobson was staying with a friend in Los Angeles: Dobson would recall how the guests at her friend’s apartment were speculating about a nuclear war’s aftermath and “after everyone went to bed, I sat up and suddenly I just started writing this song [although] I had never written [a song] in my life.”  Creepy.

“Arms & Opinons” bonces back with a piano melody  the middle section with the repeating piano melody and the backing vocals is spooky and very cool.  When both girls sing the next part it sounds tremendous.

Oh, please forget me for my sins
My charming hungriness has got me once again
My father sent me out, he told me what to do
But instead of listening, I filled up his cup to the top with glue
He tried to drink, he tried to swallow
But due to the lack of the air his face was turning dark blue
And I felt bad just for a second
But mainly I was laughing because I just brought the day

“For the View” is a quieter song with Peyton working through many different vocal deliveries–whispering, falsetto, a scream like Corin Tucker, and some good old rage screaming, too.  The drums are heavy on the toms which is also very cool.

“Stop Digging” has so many parts, it’s very neat.  It starts with a simple bass line and Peyton’s drumming.  Kelli sings quietly until the loud chorus which is all distorted.  The third sections sounds really different and catchy and then there’s a quick fourth section.  And then when the song seems like it’s over they add in yet another part with a great heavy distorted riff and big vocals for both of them.  The song could end there, but it adds a coda: “the first rule of holes, stop digging; the first step of getting out of a hole, stop digging.”

“Across the Caves” is a piano song.  It is a little faster than the other with some good drumming.  The disc ends with “Picker of His Words.”  This is a quiet acoustic song with Kelli and Peyton singing alternating verses to each other.  Kelli plays a simple bass riff and Peyton plays an interesting counterpoint guitar line over it.  It sounds pretty sophisticated and really shows off how nice their voices are when unadorned.

Since recording this album, they have added their brother to the band and have done work with Louise and Nina from Veruca Salt.  I’m really curious to see what their new stuff sounds like.  And I really hope I can see them live again–they were tremendous.

[READ: September 20, 2017] “A Recognized Man”

Timothy is a famous actor.  And he has a secret.  Lots of secrets, actually.

He is in love with René “or felt he very soon would be.”  He and Rene would be going to the Award ceremony in a few months but tonight was a special party for Timothy’s birthday.

René was not famous and he still really enjoyed seeing the reactions of people when they recognized Timothy. Timothy had other boyfriends who quickly tired of that adulation,but René did not.

Timothy is looking forward to a quiet night out with René.  He pretends to be surprised that René is taking them to Timothy’s favourite restaurant. But he is genuinely surprised to see that other people are there too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AHI-Tiny Desk Concert #693 (January 16, 2018).

AHI is apparently, inexplicably pronounced “eye.”  He is an Ontario-based singer.  There’s nothing strikingly original about his sound, but his songs are pretty and thoughtful and his voice has a pleasing rough edge.

Bob says,

AHI’s gruff but sweet voice and openly honest words were my gateway to this young Ontario-based singer. AHI says he sings Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” at the end of every set with a sense of hope. It was powerfully moving, without a note that felt clichéd or overly nostalgic. At that moment, I knew he needed to play a Tiny Desk Concert.

With a tasteful band comprised of Frank Carter Rische on electric guitar, Robbie Crowell on bass guitar and Shawn Killaly (a man of a million faces) on drums, AHI put his heart into three songs in just about 11 minutes, all from his debut album We Made It Through The Wreckage, which came out a year ago this week.

“Alive Again” builds slowly, but by the time the chorus comes around and he adds some whoops, the song really moves. I’m quite intrigued at the constant soloing from guitarist Frank Carter Rische.  It’s virtually nonstop and really seems to propel the song along.  It’s a catchy and fun song the way each round seems to make the song bigger and bigger.

About “Closer (From a Distance)” he says, we all have relationships.  Some are good; some are bad and some are just awful.  You may care about someone with your whole heart only to realize that you care about that person more than they care about themselves.  No matter how strong you are your strengths may not be as strong as their weaknesses.  Sometimes the only way to save the relationship is to walk away–“maybe we’ll be closer from a distance.”   This is a really heartbreaking song.  The lyrics are clearly very personal and quite powerful.  And the soloing throughout the song is really quiet and beautiful.

“Ol’ Sweet Day” is bouncy and catchy with a propulsive acoustic guitar and lovely licks on the lead acoustic guitar.  The drums are fun on this song as Killaly plays the wall and uses his elbow to change the sound of the drum at the end of the song.

The burning question that is never addressed is way he is wearing a helmet –motorcycle? horse riding?  It stays on the whole time.  At one point he even seems to “tip” his hat.  How peculiar.

[READ: December 8, 2017] Glorious and or Free

The Beaverton is a satirical news source based in Canada.  It began as a website in 2010 and then added a TV Show in 2016 (now in its second season).  To celebrate 2017, the creators made this book.

They have divided the history of Canada into 13 sections.  As with many satirical history books, you can learn a lot about a country or a time from the kinds of jokes made.  Obviously the joke of each article is fake, but they are all based in something.  Historical figures are accurate and their stereotypes and broadsides certainly give a picture of the person.

Some of the humor is dependent upon knowing at least a little about the topic, but some of the other articles are just broadly funny whether you know anything about it or not.

When we made this book our goal was to transport readers back to grade school to remember what they were taught n Canadian history class.  And so what if your teacher was hungover most of the time?

~30,000 Years of History in About Four Page (3,200,000,000 BCE – 1496)

“What the hell is that?”  –God after forgetting he made beavers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY BARNETT AND KURT VILE-Tiny Desk Concert #682 (December 8, 2017).

Kurt and Courtney were the unexpected hit pairing of 2017.  Enough has been said about how they don’t exactly seem like they should fit but how well they do.

I’ve said that I wish the album rocked a bit harder, but really it’s live that this duo is terrific.  We saw them a few months back and it was a lot of fun.

But this Tiny Desk Concert is twice as fun because of how unserious they are.  As the blurb says:

Put your love of perfection outside the office door and come in for some office fun. This collaboration between Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile and Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett is more about newfound friends poking jabs, goofing around and having fun with words than reaching any new musical heights. It’s a much welcome injection of humor in the world of rock music and if you’ve heard their collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice, you’ll find this Tiny Desk performance musically even more casual. It’s akin to hearing friends play after a few afternoon beers, which is kind of what happened. (We actually had to page folks in the building hoping for some brew and were quite surprised at what the NPR staff had stashed in the fridge.)

They start with their hit “Over Everything.” It sounds great even if they are very casual about it.  There’s lot of laughing between them, and their harmonies sound fantastic.  After the song Kurt pops open a beer (clearly his second).

Courtney apologies for all the tuning they’ll have to do.  “Good thing I don’t have all 12 strings.”

I love the sentiments and melodies of “Continental Breakfast”

Then Bob says, “Thanks to everyone who donated beer to make this concert possible.”  Courtney: “Yea, that happened very quickly.  Everyone has one beer hidden in their desk here.”

Kurt takes off his denim jacket and says, “Don’t mind my muscle shirt–I was working out.”

Kurt and Courtney tend to bring out the adolescence in one another, inspiring Kurt to pick out a song he wrote when he was roughly fourteen called “Blue Cheese” about, well, I’m not sure. But lines like, “I didn’t mean to cough on her/Forgot to add the fabric softener,” just make me laugh; and in 2017, in a deeply serious political landscape, I find that quite refreshing.

They joke their way through “Blue Cheese,” as you must.  He plays a harmonica solo and admits, “that was terrible.”  When it’s over he says, “I wrote that song when I was 12.”

The final song “Let It Go,” has Courtney on lead while Kurt sings some nice high backing vocals.

The whole show is light-hearted and fun, but they never make a mockery of the music.  It’s just a casual good time.

[READ: November 1, 2017] Spinning

This is a memoir about competitive ice skating.  But it is much more than that.

Interestingly, I found the intensity of the ice skating competitions to be a perfectly satisfying and compelling story in and of itself.  So at first, when Walden began adding other things from her life, I wasn’t sure if these (rather important) aspects of her life could be shoehorned into a story about ice skating.

But it soon became apparent that the skating, which was such a big part of her life, was in fact, a rather small part of her life.

Of course, the fact that Walden is 21 and stopped skating when she was 18 shows just how big a part of her life the skating was. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 15, 2017] Kings of Spade

Back in November, I saw King’s X and Kings of Spade.  I was more than a little surprised to see that King’s X were coming back to Sellersville and to see that Kings of Spade were opening again (turns out, not again, but still).  The band said that King’s X brought them to Europe, which was pretty exciting for them.

In the last 8 months or so, Kings of Spade have gotten even better.  They were really tight and solid back then, but their rocking songs rocked more and they really had a lot of fun on stage.  I guess 8 months of touring will get you to loosen up a bit.  In fact, when I saw them after the gig–they hung around for autographs again, I told the singer they sounded even better and she said she felt a lot more comfortable up there and danced a lot more–very nice folks.

It was cool seeing how well the bassist Tim Corker and drummer Matt Kato feed off each other–there’s some great rumbling sections in the later songs, with some great, complex drumming and fast bass playing. (more…)

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