New Music on our radar, archive spots and now home to the Monolith Cocktail “cross-generational/cross-genre” Social Playlist – Words/Put Together By Dominic Valvona

PHOTO CREDIT:: ZOE DAVIS

A new thread, feed for 2023, the Digest pulls together tracks, videos and snippets of new music plus significant archival material and anniversary celebrating albums or artists -sometimes the odd obituary to those we lost on the way. From now on in the Digest will also be home to the regular Social Playlist. This is our imaginary radio show; an eclectic playlist of anniversary celebrating albums, a smattering of recent(ish) tunes and the music I’ve loved or owned from across the decades.

May’s edition features new music from Andrew Hung, Laraaji & Kramer, Chocolate Hills, August Cooke and Läuten der Seele. And in the Archives there’s the 50th anniversary of Amon Düül II‘s Vive La Trance and 10th anniversary of Julian Cope’s Revolutionary Suicide to celebrate and look back on.

NEW MUSIC IN BRIEF

Andrew Hung ‘Ocean Mouth’
(Taken from the upcoming Deliverance album, released the 11th August on Lex Records)

Still envisioning hope in the expanses of what is a purer future constellation, former Fuck Button foil turn soundtrack composer and trick noisemaker producer (a pretty deft portrait painter too as it happens: see the Frank Auerbach-like artwork that accompany his solo releases) Andrew Hung is back with another candid, if universally reaching, album of diy methodology big sounds. Yes big, as in anthemic, with tracks that build towards cathartic outpourings. None more so than the first track to be aired from the upcoming Deliverance album (released by Lex again, later on in August) ‘Ocean Mouth’. A rave-y Bloc Party and White Lies in a hopeful union with a Robert Smith fronted Freur, Hung is both humbled and in heartfelt consolatory spirit as he progresses from fear to love whilst facing a litany of truths, anxieties and realisations: A therapy session of the highest musical quality. As with all Hung’s material, it only gets better and better, and this album looks set to be every bit as connective and reaching as 2021’s Devastations (a Monolith Cocktail choice album of that year no less).

Laraaji & Kramer ‘Submersion’
(Taken from the BAPTISMAL – Ambient Symphony #1album, released 2nd June by Shimmy Disc)

Divine styler of radiant ambiance zither spiritualism Laraaji can be found in communion with no less a pioneer than Shimmy Disc founder and downtown no wave doyen Mark Kramer, on this latest release from the New York label. Two pioneers of their form together over four movements of immersive, deeply affected mood music, draw on their extensive knowledge and intuition to create suites rich in the mysterious, the afflatus and more supernatural. Cycle One in this collaboration is a Baptismal symphony, the first part of which, ‘Submersion’, I’m sharing with you all today.

See also my review of Laraaji’s iconic ‘Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance’

Chocolate Hills ‘Mermaids’
(Taken from the Yarns from the Chocolate Triangle album, released by Orbscure on the 16th June)

Floating a fantastic voyage into the Bermuda Triangle, the long-running collaborative duo of Paul Conboy (Bomb The Bass, Metamono) and The Orb‘s Alex Paterson conjure up signature lost sounds and immersive languid soundscape on their new album together, Yarns from the Chocolate Triangle. Under the lunar and ether inhaled Chocolate Hills alias, the foils mine their vast experience and CVs of electronic, ambient, analogue cult sounds, library music, kosmische and new age to navigate that forbidden zone phenomenon of lost ships, aeroplanes and people. It makes for an interesting cartography, as this short teaser, ‘Mermaids‘, shows. Expect to hear more at a future date: maybe even a review.

See also my piece on Metamono’s Creative Listening

August Cooke ‘FLYING SWIMMING DREDGING’
(Single release via Poets Studio)

As debut’s go, this beautifully subtle chamber-pop draw from the London-based cellist, singer and composer George Cooke is a stunner. A tastefully orchestrated evocation of such luminaries as He Poos Clouds, Arthur Russell and Surfjan Stevens, Cooke (going under the August Cooke alias) slowly builds up an emotive momentum of understated lush hymnal magnificence. He’s aided by the full choir chorus and harmony of pupils from the West London Free School and the accentuated clarinet and saxophones of the Mumbai-based multi-instrumentalist Shirish Malhotra (Zakir Hussain, Symphony Orchestra of India). Theme wise, Cooke directly challenges the listener: if our planet was radically different, would our principles remain? A promising start indeed.

Läuten der Seele ‘Schlupfzeit’
(Taken from the Ertrunken Im Seichtesten Gewässer album, released 7th July on World of Echo)

A magical. mysteriously unveiled, often in childlike awe, world emerges on the latest recording from Christian Schoppik (aka Läuten der Seele); a fantastical peregrination of environmental changes on a particular spot.

“Somewhere in the Lower-Franconian vineyards lies a hidden and mostly unknown canyon, a place that often returns to the thoughts and dreams of Läuten der Seele’s Christian Schoppik. Though a much rarer occurrence now as a consequence of environmental change, chance encounters upon the area in the past would sometimes reveal small ponds amongst the reeds, teeming with life and populated by colonies of newts and the now endangered yellow bellied toad. The transience of the water and the wildlife it hosts, dependent on season or climate, lends the area an almost fantastical, dream-like quality. Was it ever even there at all? A secret place that may or may not be present holds vast appeal to some enquiring minds… Ertrunken Im Seichtesten Gewässer, the third Läuten der Seele album in two years, is inspired directly by these experiences. Translating as ‘drowned in the shallowest stretch of water’, a title as pregnant with dread as it is wonder, the themes present speak both to personal memories and a wider understanding of place and time, and how we might interpret our own position within an ever-changing, sometimes disappearing world. 

The record is presented as two long-form pieces divided into four separate movements, each titled so as to reflect this natural environment and its intersection with imagination, relying on processes of collage that draw from myriad indeterminable samples, field recordings and various recorded instruments. Those familiar with Schoppik’s work, both as Läuten der Seele and with Brannten Schnüre, will find present many of his signature tropes – the way deeply layered collages render abstracted visions of the past alive in the present – though what is always significant about his approach is not so much aesthetic as the wider concepts it attempts to express and emote. Indeed, emotional response is key to the Läuten der Seele sound, how overlapping notions of nostalgia, memory and identity calibrate experience and understanding of who we are and the world around us, whether it’s a world that’s gone or another imagined into being. If you observe the artwork closely enough, you may find a clue as to the canyon’s location, though such specifics are beside the point. The music itself infers a wider sense of the impermanence that characterises hidden worlds, wherever they might be or whoever they might belong to.”

ARCHIVES/ANNIVERSARY

Amon Düül II’s Vive La Trance Reaches Its 50th Anniversary

Admittedly not one of Amon Düül II’s best, Vive La Trance embraced a weird concoction of Roxy/Bowie glam and earnest sincerity bordering on the whimsy at times. And yet, it had its moments too as my original essay on this much discounted album in the Bavarian band’s cannon will testify: especially almost debauched Weimar Republic punk hysterical ‘Ladies Mimikry’ and Renate Krötenschwanz-Knaup prophetic Kate Bush performance on ‘Jalousie’

Grounding:

1972 to 1973 proved bumper years for the Duul, with five albums in total being released across that timespan.

Vive La Trance was the last album of what might be argued their most productive period: though it came with some derision. To be truthful, in part, this record is the sound of a band worn-out and fatigued, with its wide genre-spanning catalogue of songs and its rather awkward Euro rock clichés. The band now more than ever flittering with commercialism.

Recorded in the spring of ’73 Vive La Trance contains many highlights despite its more structured songwriting approach. Saying that though, they did manage to maintain an ear for the esoteric, and also still conveyed their political leanings.

Songs such as ‘Mozambique’ acted as a rallying testament to the man and his raping of both a nation and a continent in the name of colonisation. Furthermore it carries a dedication to Monika Ertl, who was killed by Bolivian security forces in Hamburg that same year – Ertl was a member of the Marxist revolutionary group alleged to have taken part in the assassination of the general responsible for capturing and killing Che Guevara. At the time she was bringing a former Nazi war criminal to justice and was leapt on by South American agents whilst back in her homeland.

This move away from their more pagan and Gothic sounding heyday didn’t lead them away from the harsh realities of the upheavals in society – oh no! Whilst in the UK we were dressing up in glitter and having a jolly good time with glam rock, Germany was still gripped with the Baader Meinhof fall-out and the political right still crushing those who didn’t toe the line. Amon Duul II remained resolute in their ideals.

This album has some more touching and less establishment baiting moments on it with songs like ‘Jalousie’, a Kate Bush sounding lament built on a wordplay of surveillance – using the double meaning translation of the title it describes a touching but fateful meeting of minds in a fleeting moment, an affair of sorts watched on by a third party.

The tune ‘Manana’ has another warm and glowing feeling to it as a mariachi backed band ambles its way pleasantly enough through a quick three minute little ditty.

Also featured on here is what can only be described as proto punk with the track ‘Ladies Mimikry’: an attempt at both Bowie and Roxy Music, which ends up sounding like none of them. Instead they create an entirely new genre.

The players on this album are made up of the usual hardcore that played on Wolf City and the UK tour; though they lost Danny Fichelscher on permanent loan to Popol Vuh.

Lothar Meid hung on in the background, though he now joined the lesser-known side act Achtzehn Karat Gold from whom Keith Forsey also joined.

New member Robby Heibl made a huge contribution to the new line up, playing seven different instruments throughout the record.

Falk U Rogner upped his contribution as now most of the band received writing credits and swapped around instruments. The vocals were shared mostly between Chris Karrer and Renate; backing came from a number of affiliates.

The albums artwork was provided by both Falk and Jurgen Rogner this time round with what looks like a drying out photo hung up by a clothes peg surrounded by a strange electrical storm background. Amon Duul II’s moniker is made up of machine looking letters, which are made to appear as if they are in motion, the albums title sits between the two undisturbed and rather plain.

Turning over to the back cover and you are met with a number of photos depicting the band in various states of dressing up. Their costumes look Elizabethan except for one member who’s dressed up in a lion’s costume. Renate gets away with being dressed in a floppy hat though one guy looks like the guitarist from Slade has dressed him.

They are all photographed in the middle of a road, no it’s not an analogy to the music found within.

Review

A Morning Excuse’ opens the album with a bird-call effect delivered from Falk’s VCS3, as a repetitive guitar riff slowly jars away in the background. Chris Karrer sings in a semi mock disdain at first before dropping to an emotional lament in the chorus; his attempts at holding on to some lost love are conveyed in this warming little pop song. This tune slightly boxes in any attempts for the free flowing musicianship of Amon Duul II to really let go, the plodding rhythm treads water until we hear the quirky twist half way through which emphasis that there is still ingenuity at work.

‘Fly United’ falls back on the previous folk echoes of Carnival In Babylon as Weinzierl plays some prime cuts of bass and adds some great lead guitar work. Renate and new boy Robby take on the vocals with a forlorn poetic series of spiritual slogans lifted from the headier days of the commune. The middle section breaks out in a nod to Wolf City before drawing to its conclusion: clocking in at a healthy three minutes.

Renate is given centre stage to perform a proto Kate Bush style vocal on ‘Jalousie’. This track is a slice of the fantastical, delivered as a soft focus ballad – it’s among the most endearing Duul tracks of all time. The title translates as both French for jealousy and is a type of Venetian blind window. This is a play on words then, which conjures up some romantic meeting of minds behind closed doors, whilst secrets are brought to the boil in a fleeting moment of connection: break out the fucking Mills & Boon.

A song of two parts, the middle section builds to a rolling rally cry with some subtle but moving melodies that cleverly encapsulates the affair as its being unveiled.

The long German titled ‘Im Krater Bluhn Wieder Die Baume’ roughly translates as “in the grater again Bluhn Baume”: nope still none the wiser!

A pastoral old folk like medieval canter that does its best to sound interesting but merely acts as an instrumental segue way. Falk’s organ is surrounded by light drum breaks and rock guitar licks as it merrily dawdles along on its short journey. It makes way for the classic three-part side one climax ‘Mozambique (Dedicated To Monika Ertl)’; a return to the past glories of Yeti.

The intro starts off with a pleasant enough African humming choir accompanied by a chorus of hand drums before being cut off and making way for some power folk. Renate on lead vocals sings quite literally of the white man’s rape of the continent; Mozambique has a history of civil war and rebellion, dealt a particularly harsh horrid blow from their old colonial masters. The chopping off of hands and other such ghoulish details follow as freedom is advocated through the good fight against the Westerners’ tyranny. The pace is picked up as it really starts motoring along and turns into some kind of space rock jam; the vocals become more harassed as Renate with shocking disdain makes us all feel bad. An eerie whispered message of “good night and fight” emerges from the fade out at the end of the epic seven-minute opus.

The Monika Ertl dedication in the title was for the daughter of Hans Ertl, a well-known German cameraman who was involved in the early Nazi Propaganda films before immigrating to Bolivia. There was a program of emigration to South America during the thirties, call it a colonisation of sorts, as thousands of Nazi sympathisers bought land and set up farms there. Monika turned against her father’s ideology to embrace Marxism, joining the Bolivian underground movement before being involved in the murder of the man thought responsible for the death of Che Guevara. In the same year that Amon Duul II recorded this album Monika was ambushed by Bolivian security force agents in Hamburg, at the time she was bringing a former wanted Nazi to trail. I think the band gave her a good send off. A fascinating women who if you ever get a chance you should look up.

Flipping over to side 2, the dry witted entitled ‘Apocalyptic Bore’ seeps through the speakers with its swirling UFO effects emulating from Falk’s faithful VCS3 and Harmonium. A voice over from Saturn via Sun Ra announces some cosmic slop before a sweet melodic acoustic 12- string perks up with a laid-back groove.

The story unfolds as higher beings decide to visit and make all our dreams come true, a paradise is created where anyone can do anything. This is backed up with at times a cringe worthy Euro rock shtick lead guitar solo. Of course time traveling becomes the norm as a time continuum is invented or something. People can live at any period in history at the same moment; let’s leave the crazy type Hawkings calculations aside.

No love, no war, no angst what a tiresome place.

Well what do you know! The kids hate it and get rather bored so the aliens decide to bugger off (“leaving for the great bear”): there’s gratitude for you!

‘DR’ is a tale of pills and bellyaches as prescription drugs are handed out willy nilly for all our ills. The music is awkward Bowie, and features some violin stabs to break up the track, though it eventually runs out of steam.

‘Trap’ lets Reante sing a tale of a credit card paying lover who obviously misread the signals somewhere down the line. Again a heavier structured track that almost has the first signs of the pub rock movement that was later to turn into punk emerging. The ending starts to get interesting but finishes in a predictable cut short manner.

‘Pig Man’ starts with a quasi-Lynyrd Skynyrd sounding intro before it breaks out into a lively little ditty. The jauntiness evokes some kind of unusual influences and doesn’t fit into any conventions I can think of. The lyrics stick it to those who left their conscience back in 69.

‘Manana’ means tomorrow, or it could be a reference to the Peruvian town. That aside it’s a slightly odd sounding song, which has a mariachi style band turns up to throw its lot in. Karrer does a good job on the vocals as some exotic type percussion accompanies him. It does grow on you over time.

The finale is the spiky titled ‘Ladies Mimikry’, a brooding bass line and melody sound, like the band is hauling themselves up a steep slope. Karrer’s vocals are at their most startled as he slowly loses his mind over the course of the track. A grinding punk like strutting backing sounds like a Gang Of Four in limbo. John Weinzierl on bass gets more and more angry as Karrer reaches the refrain of ladies mimicry; a loony inspired spitting delivery that sounds like he’s having electric shock therapy. A saxophone left over from Roxy Music’s debut album provokes a reaction akin to The Mothers Of Invention. Some serious hardcore theatrics at play; I can fully understand where punk came to take a breather before rearing its ugly head again in 1977.

Called the glam album by both fans and critics alike, it doesn’t really fall into any specific category and sounds distinctly German throughout.

Bowie and Roxy Music can be heard in here but not in the often derided way, I mean I’m sure Amon Duul II didn’t really want to sound like early art school glam rock.

Structured little tracks of the three minute length make this 11 track LP almost a commercial concern, the number of songs on display amount to more then the number found on the first two albums put together. This LP actually combines some very strange influences and falls into the Euro rock movement rather too well at times.

There are plenty of great moments on this album and it is still one of the best to come out of the period, unfortunately the next record Hijack even went further to confuse us all and upset many fans.

Further Reading

Julian Cope’s Revolutionary Suicide Is Ten This Month

Despite its promise of caustic spit and harmonious melodic nature, Julian Cope‘s ‘call-to-arms’ doesn’t hold back on the condemnation. As the title of both the leading track and album alludes, Cope’s revolutionary pride leaves the listener in no doubt. Not so much hectoring, or even bombastic, the arch druid of modern counter culture picks apart his prey with élan; attacking both failed revolutions from the here and now; lambasting the church; and bravely taking issue with the perceived – though the evidence does suggest that there is indeed a silent conspiracy – erasing from the history books, media and political stage of the horrific Armenian genocide of 1915, by the than Ottoman government: an episode, it must be said, that is hotly contested and hushed up to this day; the organised extermination of the country’s christian minorities – which also included numbers of Assyrians and Greeks too.

A middle age crisis told from Cope’s kitchen sink, or from his loft, Cope’s message may be confrontational and often blunt, yet its delivered via the influence of rebellious Detroit rock, quasi-Love and even the Sunset Strip – circa 1967. But also there’s more than enough of that 80s sound that Cope helped invent in the first place too. Actually, this is a really great little record. Almost idiosyncratic with an Englishness of a certain kind, and deprecation: despite the talk of storming the barricades, Cope is limping to man them and writing music with a real melodious and softened quality.

The Social Playlist #76

Anniversary Albums And Deaths Marked Alongside An Eclectic Mix Of Cross-Generational Music, Newish Tunes And A Few Surprises. 

Just give me two hours of your precious time to expose you to some of the most magical, incredible, eclectic, and freakish music that’s somehow been missed, or not even picked up on the radar. For the Social is my uninterrupted radio show flow of carefully curated music; marking anniversary albums and, sadly, deaths, but also sharing my own favourite discoveries over the decades and a number of new(ish) tracks missed or left out of the blog’s Monthly playlists.

Volume 76 of this long-running playlist series pays tribute to those dear souls we’ve lost in the last month, including Ahmed Jamel, Andy Rourke and this month’s cover star Mark Stewart of the irrepressible Pop Group. There’s also a myriad of anniversary marked albums to make you feel very old; Deerhunter’s Monomania celebrates its tenth with the already mentioned Revolutionary Suicide album by Julian Cope, whilst Funkdoobiest‘s debut, Which Doobie U B?, the Guru‘s Jazzmatazz Volume 1 hip-hop-jazz imbued game changer and Blur‘s (perhaps one of the best named albums of all time) Modern Life Is Rubbish are all 30 years old this month. New Order‘s Power, Corruption And Lies is 40, and George Harrison‘s Living In The Material World, Paul Simon‘s There Goes RhyminSimon and the already referenced (see above) Amon Düül II album Vive La Trance have all reached the half century milestone.

Added to that list is music, recent and old from Barel Coppet, Tresa Leigh, Pavlov’s Dog, Bonnie Dobson, The Reds and more…(FULL TRACK LIST BELOW)

TRACKLIST

The Smiths ‘What Difference Does It Make? (John Peel Session 18/05/83)’
George Brigman And Split ‘Part Time Lover’
New Order ‘Ultraviolence’
The Pop Group ‘Thief Of Fire (Live At The Electric Ballroom 1979)’
Julian Cope ‘Paradise Mislaid’
Deerhunter ‘Dream Captain’
Barel Coppet ‘Missie L’abbe’
Ahmed Jamel ‘Speak Low’
Guru & N’Dea Davenport ‘Trust Me’
Thandii ‘Give Me A Smile’
Tresa Leigh ‘I Remember’
George Harrison ‘Try Some Buy Some’
Amon Duul II ‘Jalouise’
Julian Cope ‘Hymn To The Odin’
Bill Hardman & the Jackie McLean Quintet ‘Sweet Doll’
Ahmed Jamal ‘Footprints’
Funkdoobiest ‘Un C’mon Yeah!’
Ahmed Jamal ‘Feast’
Armando Trovajoli ‘Le notti dei Teddy Boys’
Pavlov’s Dog ‘Valkerie’
Bonnie Dobson ‘I Got Stung’
Ella Washington ‘Sweeter And Sweeter’
Paul Simon ‘One Man’s Ceiling Is another Man’s Floor’
The Smiths ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’
Blur ‘Chemical World’
Sunless ’97 ‘Illuminations’
Bomis Prendin ‘French Passport’
The Pop Group ‘The Boys From Brazil’
Andy Rourke ‘The Loan’
The Reds ‘Beat Away’
The Pop Group ‘St. Outrageous’
Des Airs ‘Ling’
Amon Duul II ‘Ladies Mimikry’
Sirokko Zenekar ‘Tukorember’
The Jimmy Castor Bunch ‘Psyche’
Sam Rivers ‘Hope’

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Andrew Hung ‘Devastations’
(Lex Records) 18th June 2021

Celestial hymnal choirs and star-lit corridors to the cosmos Andrew Hung dreams big on his first solo album in four years. The once in a lifetime, if not century, events of this pandemic have sparked something almost epic, all encompassing from the former Fuck Button foil turn soundtrack composer and trick noisemaker producer.

Whilst many are riven with anxiety and even anger, Hung looks to the universal, making awe-inspired scientific and personal connections as he gazes in wonder at the deep expanses of a space. That’s not to say there isn’t an air of longing, yearning and an almost Lydon like petulant sneer at times in Hung’s vocals too: a voice that often summons up hints of solo Mark Hollis, Karl Hyde, Eno and even The Cry’s Kim Berly. But this is essentially an emphatic-voiced release from Hung’s psyche; a reconciliation of ‘the dark and light within’ we’re told, played out to the gravitas of an anthemic cosmology.

Learning a thing or two about building up to the climax as a musical partner to Benjamin John Power in the progressive-Techno come Kosmische soundtracks (like Sven Vath in communion with Ash Ra Tempel, transmogrified by a noisy Basic Channel) Fuck Buttons duo, Hung now creates something far more organic and personal on Devastations. Much of this is down to the warmth of real instruments, from a vague Mediterranean flair and twirl of acoustic guitar, to the transient tingles of piano and live sounding slipped, cymbal splashed resonating drum kit. This is coupled with the spectral synthesized rays, tubular mechanics, light refractions and bended warps of the technological machine age to perfection on an album that navigates the inner mind and outer reaches of exploration. It seems a lot like escapism; a search for something: On the soaring star-bound wonder ‘Space’ Hung sings that, “perfection exists in space”. And it would be hard to argue with that, especially as he conjures up such epic journeys towards it.

The final frontier of course is a near blank canvas, still beyond comprehension. Hung plays to that scale and uncertainty whilst firmly attached to the all-too worrying stresses of terra firma. Different thematic frustrations, the changing of the guard, are cried out as the inevitabilities of time marching on regardless are breached with sympathetic wistfulness.

Hung creates soundtracks that both traverse sea-voyaging bobbing cosmic-Americana (‘Colour’) and dreamy candid soliloquies (on the Flaming Lips pal up with The Cure finale, ‘Goodbye’). A grandiose vision that esacapes the current miasma, Devastations, despite its title, is full of light emitting love and philosophical yearning; the propulsion of which is woven together from the fabric of the motorik, the kosmische , the Madchester crowd marooned in Ibiza during the late 80s, Freur, The Amorphous Androgynous and the best in progressive electronica.

Digging deep, Hung plows the universal and comes up with a most stunning, expansive solo album; a unifying call to reach beyond ourselves for what connects us. A sentiment we all need more than ever.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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