Archive for the ‘Get This!’ Category

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Plane Or Pan

December 7, 2016

I have a distinct memory from the mid 70s of being plonked in front of the telly to watch what must’ve been a repeat of Concorde’s maiden flight, all far-off (and far-out) shimmer and vapour trails and soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac‘s Albatross. It would be years later before I knew what the music was, but it fitted the imagery perfectly. The one note pulse of the bass and drum beat like the wings of some giant bird (an albatross, I suppose, now that I think about it) while the atmospheric cymbal splashes and swoops and sweeps of the slide guitar mirrored the way Concorde banked up and away to the right after take-off. The main riff is , I think, the reason I’m a total sucker for a harmonising guitar. On Albatross, the twin guitars harmonise practically throughout; tasteful and understated and nothing like the peacocking poodle rockers who appropriated it as their own in the coming years.

concorde

Living closed to Prestwick Airport, our skies were regularly ripped apart by Concorde’s impressive thunder. No matter how many times we’d seen it before, the school playground would be full of parka’d kids pointing at the sky. If the nose was up, the plane had just taken off. If the nose was down, it was coming in to land. That was playground fact. No matter how many times I’d seen it before, the same thing always happened. The world around me would fade away. The focus of everyone’s attention would magically drop into slow motion and Albatross would start playing in my head.

Fleetwood MacAlbatross

One time (1984 perhaps) the actual Space Shuttle re-fuelled at Prestwick, piggybacking atop a jumbo jet. Even then, as we stood, mouths agape and pointing towards the most exciting thing in the world, the slow motion blues of Albatross played in my head. I still didn’t know it was called Albatross at the time, or who it was by, or anything about it, but it was inextricably linked with man-made flight and Concorde. It still is.

For such an iconic tune, it’s surprising to find Albatross hasn’t been covered more than it has. Perhaps it’s the reverence in which it’s held that excludes respectful musicians from butchering it. Hank Marvin could never resist the lure of that twang though, so it’s not surprising to find The Shadows have their own sterile, Asda priced version kicking around like Val Doonican in the 100 Club. It’s not hard to find, but you won’t find it here.

lee-ranaldo

More interesting is the version by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, accompanied by fellow noisy Fender bender J. Masics. It’s soulful, respectful and sounds exactly as you might expect…

Lee Ranaldo Band feat. J. MascisAlbatross

Maybe it’s the textured layers of feedback, or the liberal dosing of effect pedal chaos, but it’s amazing version. I like to think that if (as rumoured) Concorde takes to the skies again, it’ll be this version that plays in my head if I ever catch it in the skies above Ayrshire.

Perhaps even more interesting than the version above is the remix/reinterpretation/call it what you will by ambient producer Chris Coco. A self-titled tastemaker, DJ, broadcaster, producer, music curator, musician and journalist, (phew!) Chris has been at the forefront of dance music since the acid house days in the 80s. At the start of the new millenium he co-presented Blue Room on Radio 1, a show that gave a platform to left-of-centre and new, emerging dance acts. I’m not the most qualified of people to write about such a show, but if you’ve ever been into warped-out, dubby, spacey, downtempo dance music, chances are it first appeared here. That Chris would then go on to become Robbie William’s Tour DJ of choice should not be held against him.

Chris CocoAlbatross

This 11+ minute version of Albatross is magic. Beatless and atmospheric, it takes the original, coats it in a sheen of tinkling electronica and processed trickery and stretches it for maximum blissed out effect. I doubt Peter Green ever had any idea his original would end up in such an altered state, but if it had been him and not Dave Gilmour who’d ended up playing with The Orb a few years back, we may well have had a whole album like this. Imagine that!

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Crate Digging In The 21st Century

November 30, 2016

One of the benefits of being told to “take it easy, relax, do the things you like to do” is that I can find the time to plough through the plethora of music I’m sent on an almost daily basis. A lot of bloggers get real, actual things sent to them in the hope they’ll review them positively and give the company concerned a wee bit of cheap advertising. I wish! I never get anything physical sent my way, but I do get tons of links to Soundcloud, offers of free album downloads, Facebook friend requests and all manner of nice things written in the hope I’ll feature this band or that band on Plain Or Pan.

crate-dig-3

Just so you know, I listen to all my music on a 20 year-old Denon CD player, a near 30 year-old Dual CS 503-1 turntable, an iPod classic through a Bose SoundDock Series II (that won’t charge anymore) and via iTunes on my old steam-powered PC that’s on its very last legs. If anyone out there would like to send me some updated audio equipment, I’d be more than happy to upgrade my listening experience and pass on my positive thoughts to the tens of thousands who drop by here every week. You don’t ask, you don’t get, ‘n all that…

There’s a clue in the strapline up there – Outdated Music For Outdated People – that suggests I may tend to favour old(ish) music on here, and for a particular demographic (marketeers note – I speaka de lingo). Also, as anyone who’s a regular reader here will tell you, not only is the music of the more vintage bent, it’s also fairly easy to pigeonhole; some soul stuff, a whole load of what you’d call ‘indie’, and the occasional post featuring a classic artist, posted with fingers crossed that the DMCA don’t take offence to the embedded (not shared, note!) music file and send me one of their wee ‘take down’ requests. The curse of the music blogger, I get sent lots of them as well.

Despite the strapline and regular subject matter, I get all manner of rubbish sent my way. I’d like to think the folk sending me the links have read the blog, but clearly, these links have been whizzed my way by some misguided robot, lost in space and looking for any port in a storm. Belgian industrial techno. Wimpy, bed-wetting acoustic troubadours. The most derivative, Oasis-inspired tuneless rubbish. They all end up in Plain Or Pan’s inbox, looking for some love and attention.

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Hello! I would love for you to listen to my clients latest album!

Client? Really?! And no apostrophe! Straight into the virtual bin.

Hey! I work with (band name held to protect the innocent) who I think would be perfect for your rad blog. They do old school glam rock and the lead singer is a daughter of GNR guitarist Gilby Clarke.

Eh. Bin.

Hi! Since I like what you do, I figured you might want to know what I do. I’m a DJ and I’m releasing a house EP…

Eh. Bin.

Hi Plain Or Pan! As a lover of classic rock, I thought you might enjoy the new single by (band name held to protect the innocent). With influences ranging from Whitesnake to Foreigner, they’d be a perfect feature on your cool blog.”

Eh. Bin.

Hey! I just put out my new song (title held to protect the innocent) yesterday and would luuuuuve to know what you think of it. This song is really important to me because of the message behind it…the best world is the one that you create for yourself.

Eh. Bin.

Hey Pain Or Pan! I can’t help but saying I’m a big fan of your blog….loving the features you’ve done. I’ve just put out my projects first single and waffle waffle waffle blah blah blah….”

Big fan. Pain Or Pan. Hee-hee. Projects? Really?! No apostrophe. Bin.

There’s millions more. Gazillions. It’s depressing. John Peel famously listened to everything sent his way, scared that he’d miss the next Velvet Underground or Bowie or Smiths or Half Man Half Biscuit if he ignored them. Not me. I’m happy still discovering the Velvet Underground and Bowie and Smiths and Half Man Half Biscuit. There’s no time for new stuff when there’s so much old stuff out there, waiting for reappraisal and higher status.

 crate-dig-2

That said….

…..the odd nugget does come my way.

Hi man – appreciate you usually work with tracks from ‘the golden age’ but came across your piece on TVAM. I saw him supporting Fews in London a little while back and was blown away, one of the most exciting live acts I’d seen in ages…

Anyway, as you were into him I thought you’d appreciate hearing W.H. Lung, a brand new band straight outta Manchester too with their debut single ‘Inspiration!‘, also taking influence from just the right side of East Germany.”

Great, innit? Takes all the right influences and makes it into a new thing. The singer reminds me of the guy from Flowered Up. They only have this one track online for now, but I’m keeping an eye out for anything else.

 

Keith Canisius lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. He blends shoegaze, dream pop, ambient and lo-fi using alternative production techniques. His new album is called ‘We Are The Dreamers‘. The first track is ‘Milky Way.”

Great, innit? Weird, wonky, other-worldly, it sounds exactly as you’d expect.

 

Max Norton is the drummer for Benjamin Booker. He is also a songwriter in his own right and observes stories through photographs and travelling the world. The sun, desert and 1960s inspire him. He is releasing his solo record, ‘Blood Moon‘ this year.”

Great, innit? Rootsy, tuneful, Fleet Foxes by way of Ryan Adams.

From the tons of emails, there’s three acts featured. I could probably feature another couple, but that’s for another time. There are plenty of great new bands out there. So, if you’re in one of them and you understand what Plain Or Pan is about, send some stuff to this here cool, rad blog. If it’s good it’ll feature here at some point. Until then, where did I put that Stax box set?

 

 

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Staton The Bleedin’ Obvious, Mate!

September 21, 2016

  candi-staton-2

For folk of a certain age, Candi Staton is best-known for the horn-driven, string-swept ‘Young Hearts Run Free‘, the disco track that burned up the charts in the boiling hot summer of 1976. It’s such a golden oldie standard these days that it’s easy to forget just how brilliant it is.

Candi StatonYoung Hearts Run Free

For folk of a different certain age though, she will be best known (maybe even only known) for ‘You Got The Love‘. A track initially released 10 years after her only other hit single, it finally came to prominence 5 years later when The Source transformed the original version into a slowed-down, hands-in-the-air rave generation anthem. With its sparse bassline and E-friendly lyric, it captured the mood of the times perfectly.

The Source feat. Candi StatonYou Got The Love

What many folk might not realise is that Candi Staton is as far removed from the notion of one (or two) hit wonder as is possible. Starting out in the mid 50s as a gospel singer (of course – where else can you develop a voice as powerful, as raw, as sky-scrapingly soulful as hers?) she did the rounds of the secular circuit, regularly crossing paths with a young Aretha Franklin and her preacher dad as they likewise found the feet and voices that would stand them in such good stead in the future.

candi-staton-fame-studios

Growing out of the gospel scene, she signed to Fame Studios in Alabama’s Muscle Shoals and re-branded herself as a Southern Soul belter, a big-voiced, big-haired ‘story’ singer. Her versions of Stand By Your Man and In The Ghetto were nominated for Grammys.

Candi StatonIn the Ghetto

Backed by a countryish, harmonica-led clip-clopping rhythm and see-sawing strings, the production places great emphasis on her voice; rich and soulful, skirting across the top of the original with comfortable ease. Just a thought, but had Brian Wilson visited the wide open vistas of the south instead of playing in his sandpit, he might’ve made records like this.

Fast becoming the go-to act for A&R men who you fancied taking a standard (Nights On Broadway, Suspicious Minds) and turning it into a soulified smash hit single, Candi’s albums at the time were criminally neglected, yet they’re packed full of terrific, rarely-heard Southern Soul smashes; story songs that build and peak and turn you inside out with guilt and pain, yet can keep you dancing all night long.

I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’) is classic Candi. The Staples-esque trembling, wobbly guitar intro and loose Fender Rhodes groove, underpinned by an impressive fret-hopping bass guitar allows her vocals to fly.  It’s a cracker…

Candi StatonI’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)

There’s real grit in her voice, the kind of grit that surely only comes from being a God-fearin’, six-times married Southern woman. Perhaps she took the words of her own Another Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man a little too literally, given that it’s a classic cheatin’ song, a waltz-time tale of infidelity and indiscretion sung from the heart.

Candi StatonAnother Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man

And here’s The Thanks I Get For Lovin’ You, another loose ‘n funky track that calls to mind Aretha in her late 60s peak. A confession song in the same lyrical vein as the one above, you’d think she’d have learned her lesson by now.

Candi StatonThe Thanks I Get For Lovin’ You

A few years ago, Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s Records released a brilliant Candi compilation that gathered together much of the best material from this era. Heartache and heartbreak just never sounded so good. I would tell you to buy the album, but as mock Cockney Damon Albarn might say, that’d be Staton the bleedin’ obvious mate. Bad puns aside, you really should investigate it.

 

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What’s So Amazing? What Keeps Us Stargazing?

September 7, 2016

The perennially-evergreen Teenage Fanclub are currently burning up small venues the length and breadth of the country in a short tour to promote their new album ‘Here‘ which will be, eh, here this coming Friday. The reviews are rave-like in their generosity for the band, perhaps as much an indicator of how much Teenage Fanclub still mean to folk after all these years as much as the gigs are great. Certainly the set-lists have been mouthwatering; a cherry picking of all the best parts of their 26 year history with select new tracks sandwiched in-between where they fit best.

tfc-2016

I used to take great pride in telling folk I’d seen Teenage Fanclub live at least once (and often half a dozen times) a year since 1990 (true, by the way), but since Norman decamped to Canada a few years ago, appearances have been more sporadic. Still, I have a ticket for the big homecoming show at the Barrowlands in December, which, after reading the reviews from Edinburgh last night, I’m impatiently excited about. Like most folk nowadays I’ve had a few listens to the new stuff via an illicit download, something I was keen not to do, preferring to wait for the LP to drop through my door (or more likely a Post office postcard telling me my parcel was at the depot as I’d been out when they delivered) but a link was practically thrust into my hand and, well, what’re you gonna do? It’s terrific stuff, of course, perhaps even ‘Album Of The Year‘ material, but I’m in self-imposed listening exile, waiting until I can stick the record on at full bung in the living room. Only then will I decide on my favourite tracks.

trashcans-kzap

Another band who could easily slip into that ‘Album Of The Year‘ list are the Trashcan Sinatras, but, if you’ve been a regular on here, you’ll be well aware of that by now. The Trashcans and Teenage Fanclub are for me inextricably linked; both from the west of Scotland, of similar age to myself, purveyors of melody-led songs (Songs! Remember them?), long innings with a relaxed approach to releasing new material and both on the edge of cultdom. TFC may be slightly more well-known and, dare I say it, cooler – well, as cool as 5 guys who look like the school prom band made up of moonlighting musicians from the Geography Department can look – but the Trashcans, with their melancholy-tinged pocket symphonies never let me down.

frank-reader-tcs

A few Christmases ago, they made available a free download of The Rainbow Connection, a song that first appeared in 1979 in The Muppets Movie, sung by Kermit the Frog. If you don’t know the Trashcans, this is a very Trashcans thing to do. The song itself is lushly orchestrated, offset by Kermit’s comical croak and creaky front porch banjo.

The original version may have been Oscar-nominated, but the Trashcans make it soar. There’s not much to it really, just a close-miked, crooning Frank accompanied by a couple of guitars, one rich acoustic and one electric, seemingly still playing those bluesy bends that made such a great thing of the band’s Syd Barrett tribute ‘Oranges & Apples’. There’s some synthesised orchestration for good measure and a girl’s voice appears now and again in the chorus in perfect harmony. By the end, the whole things swings and waltzes like a soft shoe shuffle as the ‘oooh-oohs’ fade into the distance.  It’s perfect.

Trashcan SinatrasThe Rainbow Connection

It’s a track that wouldn’t be out of place on current LP ‘Wild Pendulum‘. With it’s rich sonic decoration and loose themes of celestial dreaming it could sit right there at the end of Side 1, the perfect closer for a perfect side of music. Wish they’d thought of that…

I doubt the band would have a problem with you having your own version of their track, so feel free to download it here.

Now go and buy Wild Pendulum from here or here or here. Go! Go! Go!

willie-nelson

Everybody’s favourite pot-smokin’ pig-tailed-sportin’ outlaw cowboy Willie Nelson opened his 2001 Rainbow Connection album with unique arrangement of the title track. Opening with birdsong, mountain streams, a clip-clopping rhythm and a down-home harmonica ‘n sax duet, it’s great. Not Trashcans’ great, but close enough.

Willie NelsonThe Rainbow Connection

*Bonus Track!

Here’s that Muppets version…

The MuppetsThe Rainbow Connection

kermit

 

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The Great British Take-Off

September 1, 2016

Augustus Pablo is perhaps to the melodica what Les Paul was to the electric guitar. Until Augustus, reggae was all about the boom of the bass and the pistol crack of the snare. Pablo took his melodica and made it central to the dub reggae records he played on, fighting for ear space amongst the booms and the pistol cracks, the bringer of other-worldly melody in an already expansive soundscape. Dub reggae is proper long-form music. It’s widescreen, epic and simply massive to listen to. But you knew that already.


When Augustus Pablo teamed up with dub pioneer King Tubby, the results were dynamite. Their ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’ takes the easy flowing lovers’ rock of Jacob Miller‘s ‘Baby I Love You So‘…..

Jacob MillerBaby I Love You So

…..and sends it into outer space with a heady treatment of clatters, bangs, melodi-ka-ka-ka-echos and all manner of sonic enhancements…..

Augustus Pablo/King TubbyKing Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown

It‘s a very influential record. If you know your musical onions, you’ll spot traces of the production in all manner of records, from Massive Attack and St Etienne to New Order and Primal Scream. Would New Order’s ‘In A Lonely Place’ be the record it was if Martin Hannett hadn’t turned to his inner King Tubby for inspiration; Other-worldly? Yep. Claustrophobic and menacing? Yep. Liberal sprinklings of melodica? Yep, yep and yep. It’s dub, man! A rainy, grey, 80s Mancunian, British take on dub, but dub nonetheless.

New Order In A Lonely Place


Primal Scream currently have a very good (and very limited) 12″ on release featuring a dark ‘n dubby remixed take on their own 100% Or Nothing which stretches towards the 10 minute mark, cramming in as many booms, bleeps, skank-filled echoing guitars and, yes, melodica as possible. Somewhere between New Order’s In A Lonely Place and King Tubby’s dub-in-a-cave production, with half-inched vocal refrains from Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove, it’s very good. Echo Dek part II, even. Forever with his finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not, Adam over at the ever-wonderful Bagging Area featured it last week.


In the early-mid 90s, Paul Weller was fond of adding tripped-out, elongated versions of the a-side or even his lesser-known album tracks to his singles. Remixed and re-tweaked almost exclusively by Brendan Lynch, they could usually be relied upon to be the best thing on the single. The Lynch Mob version of debut album track Kosmos is fantastic. Clearly influenced by King Tubby, Lee Perry and all those other progressive-thinking sonic architects, it’s waaaay out there. We have lift off!, to borrow the sample at the start.

Paul WellerKosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats version)

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it’s best listened to whilst you drive on the M8 on a hazy summer’s evening, just as the sun is setting and an aeroplane is taking off from Glasgow Airport, vapour trails shimmering in the mid-July heat, a stroke of luck that befell me once after dropping folk off at the airport.

le-mod-ica

Anyway, back to Baby I Love You So. Back in 1986, when alternative acts were trying to keep up with the rockist jangle of The Smiths or creating their own heavy, heavy monster sound of goth, 4AD act Colourbox released a very good version.

ColourboxBaby I Love You So

Replacing the melodica with electric guitars may have ‘indied’ it up a bit, but it loses none of its heavy dub or pulsing groove as a result. It’s a genuinely faithful version, replete with sonic wizardry and skanking galore. It’s also a tricky one to track down online, but here‘s the 7″ version, above, and the extended 12″ version below.

ColourboxBaby I Love You So (12″ version)


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Rizzla Kicks

May 9, 2016

Or, if you prefer, Crosby’s Still Hash ‘n Guns

If I Could Only Remember My Name is the title of David Crosby‘s first solo LP. I like to think it’s so-titled because Crosby always seemed to be lightly toasted; a joker, smoker and midnight toker who always appeared just on the wrong side of  frazzled. With his impish grin and walrus moustache, he’s always been a cartoonish figure, a happy hippy, a furry freak brother for real. His police mugshot from 1980 certainly adds fuel to the fire. This is the man of course who wrote ‘Almost Cut My Hair‘.

david crosny mug shot

Despite – or perhaps as a direct result of this – If I Could Only Remember My Name just so happens to be a spectacular album.

Recorded at the beginning of the 70s, it’s the sound of Laurel Canyon looking inwards for inspiration. The personnel reads like a who’s who of all who were responsible for creating music in cosmic Ca-li-for-ni-aay; Joni and Neil, Jerry Garcia, half of Jefferson Airplane, the odd waif and stray moonlighting from Santana, they all combined talents over the course of the album, creating a super-stoned marker for the future of singer/songwriters everywhere.

February 1969, California, USA --- Musicians David Crosby (left), Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash travel to Big Bear Lake. --- Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS

The album is full of peaks and troughs, with fragile, Nick Drakeisms one moment making way for soaraway CSNY-ish harmonising vocals the next and delicately plucked acoustics that take a bell-bottomed step aside in favour of tastefully amped-up electrics. Wordless vocal passages, Gregorian Chants as sponsored by Rizzla, weave in and out like lightly-blown butterflies in a summer field. It’s a distilled microcosm of late 60s/early 70s, a fine balance of carefree troubadour tormented by inter-band tension.

12 Jul 1970, USA --- Musician David Crosby smokes a cigarette while Neil Young looks on. They are in a backstage bathroom. --- Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS

With it’s sandpaper-smooth acoustic guitars and a hot-wired electric guitar forever on the point of teetering over the edge, second song in, Cowboy Movie, is the lo-fi scratchy half cousin of Neil Young‘s Down By the River. It’s over 8 minutes long, and not a second of the story, a metaphor for the in-band fighting that was going on at the time, is wasted.

David CrosbyCowboy Movie

 

David CrosbyTraction In the Rain

Traction In The Rain rings with brightly strung, wonkily-tuned acoustic guitars, a close-miked, half-asleep vocal and tumbling harps. Very 70s hippy-shit. And very nice, man.

If this has whetted your appetite, the album is well worth buying. I think you’d like it.

 

 

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Why You Wanna Leave Me, Baby?

March 23, 2016

If you’re a fan of soul music, in particular the sweet, high falsetto’d restrained soul of Curtis Mayfield or Prince when he’s in a wooin’-the-laydeez kinda mood, you could do worse than discover Didn’t I by Darondo.

DarondoDidn’t I

darondo street

It‘s quite possibly the finest slice of underground soul that ever was; a sparse minor chord-led groove, all frugging bass, doo-wop intro and call and response vocals, with a gutteral grunt one line followed by that high! high!! high!!! falsetto the next. There’s a subtle string section shimmering its way through the background, the odd flute and oodles of proper soul.

It first came to my attention a few years ago when Teenage Fanclub’s Gerry Love selected it as one of his Six Of The Best for this very blog. It was very likely a record that in its own small way influenced Gerry’s only solo LP, the terrific Lightships album. It too has a fair sprinkling of flute and plenty of pastoral strings while spinning at a relaxed pace. Ever since Gerry mentioned it, it’s lain in that dark corner of the blog, discovered only occasionally by a few very specific Googlers or in-depth readers each month. The time is long overdue to give the record its rightful place in the spotlight.

Born William Daron Pulliam jnr, the teenage William ran the streets, where he went by the name of Daron, a name soon augmented to Daron-do on account of him always having a pocketful of dough. Quite where that dough came from is anyone’s guess. There are rumours a-plenty that he was a pimp before he was a musician, and judging by the pictures above and below, you could well believe that. He certainly dressed like one, and the white Rolls Royce Silver Shadow (personal license plate not shown) adds to the notion. He gigged sparingly, was classically ripped off by his label and disappeared almost as quickly as he’d arrived. In-between having a nervous breakdown, travelling the world by cruise ship and being mistaken for Little Richard, he studied and qualified as a physiotherapist, a job he does to this day. In my house, though, he’ll always be known as the one that got away. On the evidence of Didn’t I and Legs, below, he coulda been another Sly.

Dig it, brothers and sisters. I told you you’d like it. Didn’t I?

*Bonus Track!

DarondoLegs

darondo car

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