Album Review – Scientists of Sound’s “Electric Scissors”

What do you do when someone asks you if you want to take a listen to the new Scientists of Sound album before its official release?

You say “Yes! I sure do!”

And then, if you’re me, you get busy and lose track of the days and realize that by the time you actually sit down and listen and write about the album, it has already been released.

#fail

Some might say that was a fail.

Anyway, my own lack of focus aside, I DID listen to the album, and I DO have  track-by-track commentary, and they ARE putting on a show tomorrow night (Friday the 21st) at the Seahorse and you SHOULD go. But first, some background info.

Scientists of Sound (SOS) are producers Colin Crowell (keyboards, bass, trumpet) and Craig Mercer (guitar, keys, drums, vocals).  Described as ‘live looping dance madness,’ they’ve been creating beats since 2010, much to the delight of Canadian club-goers everywhere. This is them:

Scientists of Sound

Scientists of Sound

So without further ado, here’s the rundown of thoughts, feelings and emotions that I had while listening to Electric Scissors (conveniently available for purchase at your friendly neighborhood iTunes store).

1. Statik Klingon – Strong start to the album for sure. My exact thoughts were “I can get into this.” I could really imagine myself dancing to this at Tribecca. (RIP Tribecca – I wish you were still open.)

2. PONTIAC – The first few seconds of the song took me back to when I was a kid and was obsessed with playing Super Mario brothers. You know the sound that happened when Mario turned into the Raccoon and was jumping and flying and getting coins… that’s what I’m hearing up to about 00:12. Thumbs up for nostalgia.

3. Run With It – I do have a soft spot for a strings section (or what sounds like strings). Again, really like the opening. In another life, this might be the theme song of a cool 80’s action cartoon. Agree? Disagree? Bueller?

4. Stare the Wolf in the Eyes (and become him but stronger) – Cool title. SOS demonstrates with this one that a song doesn’t necessarily need words to send a message.

5. Furiosity Killed the Cat – Do you ever feel like you get ripped off a bit when albums have songs that are super short and the whole thing is like half an hour long? Well good news, because this album has quite a few songs over the 5 minute bar. This particular gem clocks in at almost 7 minutes. Another wordless wonder, it kind of sounds like a rock opera.

6. All Around the Drowned – SOS shows off their ability to craft some serious lyrics here. This track definitely has more of a somber tone than its predecessors, featuring lines like “all around the drowned, far away from the underground, trying to get ahead, but I feel like I’m halfway dead…” Kind of a mid-album break so you can catch your breath a bit, then keep dancing.

7. The Brightest Light in the Sky (is not a star at all) – Again, nice work on the title. I was actually really hoping for some lyrics to illuminate the concept (no pun intended). Starts off pretty mellow, takes a sharp turn into dance town at the 2:00 mark, and then returns to its roots around the 5:00 mark. I’m reminded a bit of Digitalism’s Zdarlight on this one. (Which isn’t a bad thing.)

8. Electric Scissors – I listened to these in order, so you can imagine my anticipation when it came to the titular track.  Some clever lyrics in here and I personally find it satisfying to hear the part of the song where they actually say the song/album name. Electric Scissors, you did not disappoint.

9. Train REC – Big guitar on this one. I found myself thinking that I’d love to sit down with the scientists themselves and talk about how they decide on track names, especially for the ones that have no lyrics.

10. HUSWORTH – What does HUSWORTH mean? I don’t know, but this track has a certain triumphant/anthemic quality that I enjoyed.

11. Mothership –  They do a sneak attack with unexpected vocals that kick in about 1/2 way through (I appreciate that, because I like to be able to sing along). I love the very end of the song that finishes on some fanfare which sounds like it belongs in an old school movie. Nice touch.

Overall impressions: You will dance.  You may also be inspired to start working out again because this would be such a great album to listen to while running (or doing any sort of cardio… your choice). If you listen to this and can’t even manage a head bob, fist pump, or shoulder shimmy… you need to take a minute and lighten up. I now have an understanding of why the dance floor gets absolutely torn up at every single show these guys put on. It will definitely be on the rotation this summer.

dance

This is how I dance.

For a way more professional-sounding review from an actual professional arts reporter, please click here.

Or listen for yourself here.

Or see them live!

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Old Favorites and New Finds

For the last couple months I’ve been living under a corporate rock of sorts and have spent most of my time working/sleeping and almost none of my time doing something I really love… going to see live music. Well, that ends now, with a little help from the ECMAs.

I kicked off my reintroduction to music last night at the Palace. This is normally the part where I would defend the fact that I was at the Palace by reinforcing that I was there to listen to some cool bands, but I’m not going to do that this time. I’ve seen some great shows at the Palace this year,  so if you must judge me for going there… carry on.

It's true. They're gonna.

So anyway, last night was the TicketPro Pop/Rock Stage featuring a line up of some of the finest toe-tapping talent that the East Coast has to offer. Like many people, I’m more apt to attend a show if I’m familiar with the artists/know some of the songs, and this show fit that bill with famous names like Jenn Grant on the agenda. The format was what I would call “short and snappy” with each performer only getting 20 minutes (if even) of air time. I understand the theory behind this format is to keep the show moving and give everyone a chance to showcase their talents. Unfortunately this led to Jenn Grant’s set being cut pretty short (but there was still enough time to enjoy her gorgeous voice).

jenn grant

Next up was a 4-song set from Soho Ghetto who pleased the crowd with some big vocals from Marc-Antoine Robertson and even gave us a brand new song. They have been working with Daniel Ledwell on their new album and if this new tune is any indication, I think we definitely have something to look forward to. One minor detractor from that set: the Security Guard kept standing RIGHT in front of us. I mean, directly in front.This brought out some rage in me, but I decided against aggression (I did not want to be thrown out of the bar so early in the evening.)

get out the way

I can’t seeeeeeeeeee

Eventually he did move (slightly) and I could take a few blurry shots of the band.

sohoghetto

After Soho Ghetto’s performance Ria Mae was up and her set got off to a great start with “Under Your Skin”. Ria had Margot Durling on stage with her for their usual delightful harmonies and then brought up Ambition to partake in her new song “Take Your Clothes Off” (let’s not waste time with subtleties, amirite?) and again for an added verse to her pop-recording of the year nominated song “Leaving Today”. Bang-up job, as expected.

Blurry enough for you? It really is Ria, I swear.

Blurry enough for you? It really is Ria, I swear.

So after Ria’s set ended, four young gentleman took the stage and were introduced as Paper Lions. Now I’ve heard of Paper Lions before but somehow have never seen them live. About 5 notes into the set this was my general sentiment:

ohmygodHow have I NEVER seen these guys play before?! They are amazing. I love them. If you’re unaware of these beauties, check out this YouTube video. (PS – It has 3,000,000+ views. Not too shabby.)

After viewing that video, I’m also thinking that these guys must have a hook-up to some fine anti-aging potions, because this was apparently filmed in 2007 and they all look the exact same, more or less. Magic.

Delightful

I’m loving Paper Lions

So after that we got to see Jenn Grant take home her first ECMA ever for Pop Recording of the Year. Aside: Can you believe that? She’s been nominated 14 times and this is the first time she has won an ECMA.  I’m not sure how that’s possible. Long, long, long overdue. Congratulations Jenn.

At this point in the night my aging self decided it was time to go home (Friday is still a work day, sadly) so unfortunately I missed the final acts of the evening, but I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth. Great night. Great acts. Great music. Zero complaints. (Aside from the security guard.) Thanks ECMW.

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Marketing and Media and Keynotes… oh my! (HPX Redux)

Music and technology work pretty nicely together. These days it seems like you rarely have one without the other, and this has certainly been true for me over the last week as I’ve been participating in Halifax Pop Explosion (HPX) and HPX Digital (the associated media/marketing/tech conference). I’ve been emceeing (that word does not look right to me at all… emcee’ing… mcing… um… being an emcee) and helping out with some of the social media for the conference and it has been great. I’ve met some awesome people involved in the tech and media industries here in Halifax, and the cream of the crop in the tech/digital/media scene from all over North America.

So I’m highjacking my own (oft-neglected) music blog to write a post about the digital media world and the superstars of this conference. Every single presenter I saw was fantastic (which is usually not the case at 3-day conferences), but I’ve narrowed down my top 6.

One of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard

1) Kyle McDonald (@kcimc): Who is this guy? Where did he come from? Why didn’t I know about him before?  McDonald is a media artist from Brooklyn who blew my damn mind with his presentation on giving everything away. Over the course of one hour Kyle demonstrated a selection of his wild, wonderful and jaw-dropping projects using 3D projections. He exists in the most fantastic of spaces where art and technology collide and the the results are nothing short of magnificent. When the robot overloads take over, I definitely want this guy on my team.

2) Boyd Neil (@BoydNeil): This man has 100% more street cred than 99.99% of all people in the tech industry. He started his presentation with a photo of his younger self being hauled off by the police for political protesting. Aside from being an expert who gives and takes exactly zero bullshit, he is an excellent speaker and his discussion of online activisim/slactivism was really well done. The crux of his talk was that if online activism isn’t accomplishing anything, it’s not the fault of the so-called “slacktivists” but the fault of the organizers who haven’t been successful in motivating people to actually act on behalf of a cause. He got the wheels in my head spinning.

For a good reaction from the crowd, open your presentation with a shot of yourself being arrested

Look at those pants and tell me you don’t love this guy already

3) Saul Colt (@saulcolt): Um Saul… if you ever read this – I want to be friends with you and I don’t care if you’re awkward in small groups (his words, not mine). Who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who self-identifies as “the smartest man in the world”? I have never seen or met anyone like Saul before in my life. He is a genius in the most mad-scientist/magician sense of the word. His presentation on marketing to customers (who don’t want to be marketed to) was beyond hilarious and extremely useful for anyone who has ever been in the situation of having to do a lot with a little. This was the first time in the history of my life that I have ever wished that a slide show would go on longer.

Successful author… just one of Amber Mac’s accolades

4) Amber Mac (@ambermac): When someone has 80k+ twitter followers and 500k+ facebook subscribers, there is a chance that they might not be very down to earth. This is not the case at all with Amber Mac. After delivering a fantastic presentation on the 7 steps to social media success for entrepreneurs, Amber mingled with attendees and  showed why she’s been crowned one of Canada’s top social media experts. Seeing her talk and learning about her success was a real inspiration for all the women in the audience (like me) and I’m sure the men too!

Great speaker + fascinating topic

5) Daniel Berkal (@danielberkal): Berkal is a VP at the Palmerston Group in Toronto and had the audience completely engaged with his talk on sociable butterflies and the difference between the people who are truly social, accessible and influential in real life versus the hyperconnectors who appear to be social in the online space, but don’t truly “connect” with many people in the real world. I would highly recommend downloading his presentation and reading it, because it’s fascinating on a personal level AND applicable to businesses and branding.

6) Alexis Ohanian (@alexisohanian): the co-founder of Reddit and Hipmunk, investor in 50+ companies, defender of the internet – Ohanian is so articulate and well-spoken, so successful, and so normal. His keynote address highlighted his wonderful story-telling ability and endeared him to everyone in the room. He was fun and interesting, and handled some difficult questions like a pro. Also, this happened:

Excuse me while I geek out for a bit…

Anyway, my tech side has been completely indulged during the day in the presence of some amazing industry experts and my music-lover side has been in sweet sweet melodious heaven as I got to take in some awesome acts by night.

It was a fantastic 3 days and I can’t wait to take part again next year.

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Favorite Video Friday

For the past week I’ve been spending all day every day every damn day (pretty much) at my regular 9-5 and then following that up with volunteering at the Atlantic Film Festival. I had no idea what to expect when I signed up to volunteer, nor did I realize that I’d be volunteering so much that I wouldn’t actually get a chance to see any of the movies (a major oversight on my part).

can’t win ’em all

But that’s ok. The film festival HAS provided me with a wonderful opportunity to meet some cool people and attend some industry events and panel discussions about the music and film industry in Canada. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: did you know that a top level music video budget in Canada is in the $60k neighborhood? Percolate on that while you consider that videos such as the Backstreet Boy’s “Larger than Life” cost upwards of $2 million. Anyway, sitting among directors and artists, and listening to people who have directed videos for Moby was pretty awesome. Though I did feel like a bit of an impostor at times (more than one person asked me “So do you have a film in the festival?”) it was an overall good experience.

Do I have a film in the festival? Dude… I’m just a volunteer

But I digress. The point of all this is that I’ve been been around a lot of film industry people over the past few weeks, and this has coincided with the release of some new videos from some local artists. Needless to say, this is the type of thing that makes me excited.

I know, right!

Anyway… without further ado, it’s favorite lyric video(s) Friday, so check out these great new videos from Rich Aucoin and Jenn Grant. And have a wonderful weekend.

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Music In Review – Olympic Closing Ceremonies

Well… the Olympics are over. I have a lot of emotions about this. But instead of telling you about my favorite Olympic athletes (Daley, Blake, Pistorious, Sinclair) or my favorite moments (Brent Hayden getting a medal, Epke Zonderland killing his high-bar routine and winning gold, Usain Bolt’s general showmanship) this post will focus on the music of the closing ceremonies. And there was a lot of it.

Opening section – A Day in the Life in London

Emeli Sande singing “Read all about it”- She sounded good, but I wish they’d started with something a bit more upbeat. Aside: Apparently all that text covering the piano/cars/etc. was works of great British authors.

Great voice. Questionable footwear.

Madness singing “Our House” (in the middle of our street) – including marching band and huge street party. Good idea to start the party with a song that pretty much everyone knows.

Petshop boys, if you’re not singing “Go West” I’m not sure if I’m interested (this was “Westend Girls”). But props to them for taking it all so seriously in those black dunce caps with their orange dunce cap rickshaw drivers.

Words escape me.

One Direction! I love these little scamps. And, as I have mentioned before, I love songs that involve a clapping section.

Definitely not age-appropriate (for me)

Ray Davies singing Waterloo Sunset – I get the feeling that Mr. Davies is well-loved in Britain. Some very strange imagery was happening during this number. I don’t pretend to understand. But overall, a nice performance of a nice song.

Main Event – Symphony of British Music
(They set up the stage while Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” was playing. I love that song. People may be more familiar with the Placebo version.)

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (just a snip) to get us going.

John Lennon/Children’s choir singing “Imagine” – I guess you can’t really have a tribute to British music without incorporating this in some capacity. The part where they made the puzzle that looked like Lennon’s face was very cool.

George Michael – “Freedom” and “White Light” – There were parts of White Light when I thought “wow, he sounds amazing” and then I realized the microphone was down at his side. Interesting. But I’d say he’s still got it. More or less. Aside: his dance moves are the best.

George channeling Bono

Kaiser Chiefs and their biker gang sang the Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and they were sounding really good. I liked this a lot.

A Bowie montage – no trip to London would be complete without one.

OH GOD IT’S ANNIE LENNOX. She was looking effin’ possessed in her demonic flying ship. And sounding fabulous as she sang “Little Bird”. Aside: I love that CTV cut to Mark Tewksbury singing along as everyone else took photos.

He knows all the words

Ed Sheeran and his hoodie singing Pink Floyd – I wonder if any of the athletes outside of English-speaking Europe, Canada, and the USA are aware of this person and his music. I bet the team from Brazil is like “what the hell is this?” But he is so cute with his ginger bedhead. I want him to be my little brother.

It’s not Ron Weasley. But almost.

Russell Brand as Willy Wonka – Definitely unexpected and hilarious. And surprisingly not a totally awful singing voice.

A world of pure imagination

Fatboy Slim – That’s what Fatboy Slim looks like? Who knew? Great music though.

Mr. Slim himself

Jessie J/Tinie Tempeh/Taio Cruz – She has a fantastic voice, and an equally fantastic aversion to pants. I’m not sure that Tinie Tempeh was an obvious selection for this, but good for him for getting invited. And I don’t know why, but I find Taio Cruz very appealing. I think it’s largely because he’s British. They all sang their own songs and then “We Should Be Dancing”  from the BeeGees. This trio was likely inserted into the program when the producers realized that a lot of the Olympians are younger than 19 and would never have heard of half the acts before.

pants are for suckas

SPICE GIRLS! This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. WANNABE!  SPICE UP YOUR LIFE! I love that they rolled up in cars that suited their Spice personality. Was it me, or did it seem like Mel B’s mic was up like 3 notches higher than everyone else’s? Were they lip-synching? Maybe. Doesn’t matter. They are fantastic. I’m so glad this happened.

Spicing up our lives again. At long last.

Oasis – Good old “Wonderwall”. And then they were introduced as “Beady Eye”. What? When did that happen? Because that was most certainly a Gallagher brother.  He sounded… well… he sounded like he’s done a lot of living since Wonderwall came out.

Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) – Always looking on the bright side of life is probably easy to do when Victoria Secrets Models spontaneously appear behind you during your performance. In my humble opinion, this number went on for a bit too long, however I loved seeing Harry and Kate bobbing and whistling along.

Muse – Truth be told, I’m not 100% wild about “Survival” (the official song of the Olympic games). I prefer the “Uprising” era of Muse. They started off ok (although you couldn’t hear the piano he was playing at all), then it got very, very theatrical for my tastes… like bordering on Fred Mercury-esque. Although it was actually followed up by a Freddy Mercury tribute of sorts. So… maybe that was on purpose? I don’t know. I wasn’t sold.

Glitter suits for all!

Queen & Jessie J (this time in a different nude bodysuit…at least she’s consistent in her nakedness) – there was a crazy (long) guitar solo from Brian May and then “We Will Rock you” (the original Jock Jam) with no shortage of vocal acrobatics from Miss J. Sometimes less is more.

Take That – I love boy bands. It’s a well documented fact. My love for these guys goes back to “Back for Good”. The always dashing Gary Barlow is in the midst of a serious family tragedy, so it’s pretty amazing that he still did this performance. One major missing component though – where was Robbie Williams?

The Who – Teenage Wasteland (or as many of us know it – the opening credits from CSI NY) and several other classics. It was a great performance from some guys who really know how to rock.

And now… for my own Awards Ceremony:

Most “This is irrelevant to the Olympics” moment – section dedicated to British models and designers… because models are such shining examples of athletic accomplishment

Nothing says “Congratulations Olympians!” like Kate Moss and couture

WTF Awesome moment – Russel Brand as Willy Wonka

WTF No Thanks moment – Matt Bellamy’s over-emotive performance and shiny suit

Best Harry Potter moment – Wormtail as Churchill

He’s a very versatile actor

Most “seriously?” moment – “Beady Eye” performing Wonderwall. Just be Oasis.

Beady Eye? Sure you are.

Best “Did anyone else see that” moment – When Posh Spice almost lost her balance on top of her Posh mobile. God love ya Victoria Beckham.

To be fair, they’re a bit out of practice

Most disappointing moment that never happened – Adele? Where are you? I thought you would be there. I was legitimately disappointed. Damn you Perez Hilton for getting my hopes up.

Most questionable use of Bollywood backup dancers – Eric Idle

Right. So, this happened.

Most bizarre stage prop – giant blow-up Octopus

Most hilarious juxtaposition of luxury good with lyrics re: not caring about material possessions – Jessie J in Rolls Royce Phantom singing “Pricetag”

Dreamiest performers I’m too old to say are dreamy – One Direction

Person in the audience I most want to be best friends with – Kate Middleton. Obviously.

I love you Kate.

Most exciting moment – Spice Girls, no question.

So that’s it. The Olympics are done. Now I have no idea what to do with myself all day, but I suspect I’ll get into Shark Week in a big way to fill the void.

Just like watching Ryan Lochte… right?

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Favorite Lyric Friday – Carmen Townsend’s “Start All Over”

If you’ve checked out any local news over the past few days, you may have noticed that this week has been CRAY for Carmen Townsend. In a bad way. She had all 4 of her guitars, including her beloved Guild Starfire, stolen out of her car. WT actual F.

I have the same incredulous sentiments as Ron Weasley.

The latest development in the case is that one of the guitars has been returned, but 3 remain in the wind.  (Or in a pawn shop, or on kijiji or CraigsList.) If you see anything/hear anything/know anything about the location of Carmen’s guitars, please get in touch with her or the police. You can find all you need to know about contacting her here.

Carmen & her Guild Starfire

In the meantime, I’m choosing Carmen’s “Start All Over” as my pick for Favorite Lyric Friday, specifically these words:

I’m not asking for your sympathy
I’d never want you to worry for me
Isn’t there some place to put away all the pain?
I would really love to start all over again

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QD6DUqQFST4&w=425&h=349]

I REALLY hope that these guitars make it back to Carmen, and that she can start all over again with creating and performing her excellent brand of music.

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, Carmen’s guitars were returned safe and sound. 3 cheers for the power of social media and people doing the right thing (which, to be clear, is returning the guitars – not stealing them.)

A post from Carmen’s facebook

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A column devoted to my other love…

I love music. I really, really do. And I support the hell out of anyone on the east coast (and other places too) who has the guts and the brains to churn out their own stuff. But for all my love of musical artistry, finely crafted tunes and expertly selected lyrics, I can’t turn my back on my other love – celebrity gossip. If music is my main course, then celebrity gossip is my delicious, calorie-laden, ill-advised dessert that I refuse to skip.

So when Lainey of Lainey Gossip came to town, and a ticket became available, I jumped at the opportunity to meet her in person and hear her spread the gossip gospel. (Go ahead, judge me. I will make zero apologies for my enjoyment of this evening.)

Me, Lainey and Jill – just a regular Monday night

I LIKE talking about why everyone has reacted so intensely to the K. Stew apology. I ENJOY a spirited discussion about why Katie Holmes is now a bad-ass Suri-saviour. I DELIGHT in not-so-subtle hints concerning the stars involved in Lainey’s blind-items.

So, among a ton of interesting celebrity info, here’s what I learned (or at least what was confirmed for me) in terms of musical trivia:

  • Michael Buble loves being Michael Buble. And not in a cocky way. But he was a no-name for a while, so now that he’s internationally loved, he’s feeling good and loving life. Also – Buble and Ben Mulroney are actually buds, for real.
  • Mariah Carey is exactly as bat shit crazy as you think she is and it’s fabulous. She has a team of people to fetch her water, unscrew the cap of her water, put a straw in her water, bend the straw directly to her mouth and hold the water for her while she sips. I am going to start watching American Idol again for this reason.
  • The Jackson family drama is not playing out well. Everyone is scrambling for a piece of Michael’s estate. It’s pretty sad.
  • Lainey predicts a Kimye baby soon and says that ‘Ye is much more chilled out and less of a spot-light hog now that he’s rocking the Kardashian brand of fame.
  • Britney just wants to be a mom, but she’s still pretty young and they’re throwing so much money at her so her handlers keep pushing her to do one more show/one more album/one more tour…

Leave Britney alone.

None of this is particularly surprising (although I do love the image I get with the Mariah tidbit). But it is pretty fun to hear some of these items from the mouth of someone who has actually met these people in real life. I find celebrity culture and the public fascination with it (and my own fascination with it) such an interesting subject. Lainey did a great job of bringing up celebrity hot-topics, moderating the class, and leading us in a pretty cerebral discussion with some definite feminist tones. (… And you thought you’d never read “celebrity hot-topics” and “cerebral discussion” in the same sentence.) Why was Kristen Stewart’s apology possibly the worst PR-blunder of the year? Would anyone even bat an eyelash if the roles were reversed? (Answer: there would definitely not be a public apology.) Does the latest string of legal and negotiating brilliance from Katie Holmes make Tom look bad? Does it make Nicole Kidman look really bad for not waging the same war to free her own children from dianetics? These are some good questions – because most people will have an opinion, one way or the other. And the people in attendance certainly did.

This makes me more excited than any degree I actually paid tuition for.

I would happily say that this was one of the most enjoyable Monday evenings I’ve had in ages. Delicious food (thanks to Joel from Fred), tasty drinks (Vitamin Water in cocktails you guys… get into it), wonderful service (Lainey’s team and the staff at Fred were fantastic) cute swag, and great conversation. I hope we can do it again soon.

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