Ecstatic Vision: Sonic Praise


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From Heavy Blog Is Heavy:
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“Easily the most unsuspecting release from Relapse this year, the debut album from Ecstatic Vision does not sit well alongside releases from Gruesome or Maruta; it sits somewhere above them, not quite on top of them, more somewhere in the planes between metal and psychedelic euphoria. Sonic Praise is definitely one of the more interesting debuts of the year, especially considering the abundance of extreme metal releases that have made this year so entertaining thus far. Contained within is less than an hour of music that belongs in places the human eye cannot see. Want to know how to induce a psychedelic state without dropping acid? Read on. In his final days with A Life Once Lost, Doug Sabolick was experimenting with lower tempos, grooves and spacey, haunting guitar licks. Ecstatic Trance was a departure from the Philadelphia band’s more raucous approach, a departure that Sabolick has continued to toy with with Ecstatic Vision. The wandering, almost freeform guitar parts that float throughout the run time of Sonic Praise are lavishly dripping with effects; the lead guitar tone on this album almost feels lifted from Ecstatic Trance, but when something is that delightful, why not recycle it? This guitar tone, along with the cerebral, chilling choral vocals and deep, underlying tones of the organ, make for a backdrop capable of pulling the listener deep into the vibe. Although the riffs and structures may be derivative of 70’s and 80’s music, this is still a modern production; one that is hands down delightful. Aesthetics aside, Sabolick and co. play really driving space rock. With an energy that fans of Clutch will appreciate, the music barrels forward and upward, often using repetitive riffs in a manner befitting the nature of stoners alike. Each track really feels like it’s own unique beast, regardless of the repetitive nature of a lot of the guitar and bass riffs. Not afraid to draw back and let the psychedelic sounds take over, each refrain is worth it’s weight in gold when a big, rolling riff comes back around. Ecstatic Vision fill these eclectic moments with ethnic percussion and rhythms befitting those instruments, finding time to throw in some other wordly sax soloing too. “Astral Plane” and “Cross The Divide”, the longest of the five tracks, are given the chance to spread their metaphysical wings and take flight, thanks to these prolonged sections of noodling. It would be easy to give this album a perfect score on the right kind of day. Unfortunately, not every day is fit for phasing out of the real world. Ecstatic Vision have every right to fight for the crown of modern psych rock kings. The hard work and attention put into this album shines through like a neon light in the black emptiness of space, or some other such psychedelic to and fro. Sonic Praise should be the first in a long line of solid, enjoyably whacked out rock releases from this band. Listen to this under the influence.”
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Sonic Praise is out now on Relapse; check out “Don’t Kill The Vibe” below.
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LA Priest: Inji


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From the label:
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Inji is the debut solo album by Sam Dust, AKA LA Priest. Across its ten audaciously imaginative tracks, Inji reasserts Dust as a truly idiosyncratic voice in British music, applying the same frantically eclectic, mischievous and wilfully absurd spirit of his previous band, the beloved Late of the Pier, to ever more nuanced and affecting songwriting and composition. From the obscene space-age stadium rock guitar solo of “Oino”, the maddeningly catchy digi-dub single that Dust leaked sample-by-sample on a suitably enigmatic website at the turn of the year, to “Learning To Love”, the record’s gargantuan, eight minute long prog-house centrepiece and “Occasion”, a melting martian Prince come-on, Inji confounds and delights in equal measure and at every turn. “Lady’s In Trouble With The Law” boasts a lithe, sensual soul chorus about getting arrested that feels at once haunted and horny whilst the insectoid instrumental ambience of “Lorry Park”, twists and turns and burrows into the brain as creepily as the most classic Aphex Twin material. Elsewhere, “Fabby”, another instrumental, juxtaposes a gorgeous, cascading piano figure that’d make Benjamin Britten proud with percussion that sounds like the clashing of two swords and album closer, the bubbling, aquamarine ballad “Mountain” finds Dust contorting his voice into a stratospherically high, androgynous falsetto. Throughout all the songs there’s a reliance on feeling and intimation as opposed to any one lyrical theme, and although the notion of love, its joys and trials, heaviness and absurdity, can often be glimpsed, it’s in a non-linear way that recalls the disruptive, deliberately misleading pop of artists such as David Sylvian, Arthur Russell and David Byrne. So when Dust opines “was I born to love you?” on “Mountain”, it’s just as likely to be about the titular mountain, or his dog, or the entire world itself, or nothing at all as it is any real object of romantic affection. If it doesn’t conform it’s because it’s not supposed to.”
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Inji is out now via Domino Recording Co.; check out “Party Zute/ Learning To Love” below.
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https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/203247161

White Poppy: Natural Phenomena


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From the press release:
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“Crystal Dorval from Vancouver, Canada has been making healing, distorted rug-gaze music from a coastal mindset all her own since 2011. Natural Phenomena is her second album as White Poppy, and it echoes 2013’s previous self-titled effort in its isolationist origins, as the record emerged slowly across a 9-month retreat alone on a farm on Vancouver Island. “Some days I would only add one tiny guitar line or keyboard texture and that would be it for the day… it was a long process.” However gruelling and gradual the method, what accrued is gold – 10 of Dorval’s deepest dreamdives, starry ambient pools, and dissolved guitar designs, ghosted through a lens of grey-skied pop. Songs wax and wane across faded rainbows of guitar, sunrise keyboards, looped percussion, and vocal ocean-spray. Behind Dorval’s gauze of warm noise glows something pure and newer than new age: “My hope is that these positive feelings will be communicated sonically, or in essence, and will be enriching for listeners.” A high height for a climbing talent; White Poppy blooms on cliffs of light.”
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Natural Phenomena is out now on Not Not Fun; check out “Confusion” below.
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Vince Staples: Summertime 06


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From NPR:
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Vince Staples is used to playing the bad guy. Since he was first introduced as a fringe Odd Future affiliate the 22-year-old rapper has established himself as a calm, sinister presence—in sharp contrast to the sometimes shocking, but mostly innocuous, hijinks of Tyler and company. In the four-and-a-half years since the release of his first mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, we’ve been able to delve further into Staples’ mind and seen him develop as a lyricist and songwriter, as he’s consistently added depth to what could’ve been a two-dimensional gangsta persona. Every anti-hero needs an origin story, and in light of the circumstances that formed Vince Staples, black-and-white categorizations of good and bad start to turn gray. That gray area is where Staples does his best work. Staples’ debut double album Summertime ’06 is a study in artful juxtaposition—an hour-long examination of the contradictions that make the man. His hood nihilism is tempered by astute observations about society and an underlying longing for a better way of life. Sonically, the album plays with complementary opposites, too. His voice is high-pitched and slightly nasal and his vocal clarity is impeccable. To match those qualities, lead producer No I.D.—and an all-star team of boardsmen including DJ Dahi, Clams Casino and Christian Rich—supply Staples with a dark, atmospheric backdrop full of low end, reverberating percussion and distortion. But, because of Staples’ myriad flows and the intoxicating rhythms of songs like “Loca” and “Get Paid,” groove is never sacrificed for mood. The album begins with “Ramona Park Legend, Pt. 1,” where woozy, tropical wa-wa guitar, sporadic snares and bass kicks blend with the peaceful sounds of seagulls screeching and waves ebbing and flowing—only to be pierced by a single gunshot. Welcome to Long Beach, Calif., Staples’ hometown. But Summertime ’06 is no sunny “Summertime In The LBC.” “We love our neighborhood, so all my brothers bang the hood / I never vote for presidents / the presidents that change the hood / is dead and green,” rhymes Staples on the album’s manifesto, “Lift Me Up.” He’s as motivated by money as anyone who’s grown up without it, but he’s also keenly aware of racism and inequality, making him a conflicted young man whose perception is clear as his morality is murky: “Fight between my conscience and the skin that’s on my body, man / I need to fight the power but I need that new Ferrari, man.” On “Get Paid” he runs down a laundry list of things he’s done to do just that, from armed robbery to home invasion. But he punctuates his dirty deeds with a statement about the futility of the paper chase: “Money puttin’ n***** in the Matrix, face it,” and an echo by guest Desi Mo: “Money is the means of control!” Staples’ relationship with the opposite sex is as complicated as his relationship with money. He flirts on “Loca” but danger looms throughout the courtship. He warns the object of his affection that she needs to be prepared to deal with a gangbanger’s lifestyle. The cracks in his gangsta veneer become apparent, though, on “Summertime” where we get Staples at his most vulnerable, singing to his lover, “This could be forever, baby” and “I hope you understand / they never taught me how to be a man / only how to be a shooter.” Yes, Vince Staples can be that villain you root for, but he’s even better at showing us the complex, varied pieces that make up a real man.”
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Summertime ’06 is out now on ARTium/ Def Jam; check out “Get Paid” below.
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The Cairo Gang: Goes Missing


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From the press release:
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“There is no sweeter cry than a cry of love, and no greater love than a love of music. Like mercury through our clutching fingers, it is here and gone and spikes the blood like poison — and the Cairo knows, he’s flown all ‘round this world, sewin’ seams and sowin’ seeds in the name of that most rare, that sweet, and on the wind, melody. When he Goes Missing, bet on it — that with guitar in hand and cry from deep in his chest, he’s in search of a place to beat his feet, and play the music again. Playing with other artists over the years, Emmett Kelly has exhibited an encompassing approach to music which lends flexibility to The Cairo Gang’s song-style. He’s a harmony singer of supreme skill, bringing not only a sweet and supple voice but also a tremendous sympathy to the singing of it (as anyone who’s caught Cairo onstage with the Bonnie ‘Prince’ will ever know). Now a couple albums and tapes and singles and things into it he’s making streamlined music for the ears, constructing with a heavy hand in order to have a heavy impact with more than just sounds, but songs, and beaming them in on bright bolts of sunshine so as to be valued by our walnut-sized pleasure centers. With Goes Missing, The Cairo Gang have found themselves, their most perfect alignment to date, taking a more intuitive path to the song, playing as in “go play”: letting go of the sense of design, letting it write itself, as it will in the right hands. As Cairo saith (and so hummably too), “Be What You Are.” Goes Missing was written in-between places, on the run, recorded in a variety of rooms. Lines appear to have been straightened — yet still, blood beats sidewise inside Cairo’s temples, their rebel heart is drunk on the outskirts of town. The impulse to dig underneath the bittersweet heart, to invert meaning, shapes the songs of Goes Missing. Nuts and bubblegum — why can’t we have both? With the music in righteous hands, and the distillation of high values to sing-songy ends, paths to the ear are clear even when words go rogue. Goes Missing is about new identity — what’s missing is that thing you heard in the past that is not the same thing anymore. It’s back there somewhere, if you go looking. Bright and colored, like a jukebox shining a light, The Cairo Gang’s Goes Missing is a stack of sides, piled up, one after another, doo-wops of another age, with synthetic beat and pops that rock for the sake of the song, coming down the chute one after another, today. Keep on dancing.”
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Goes Missing is out now via God? Records; check out “Be What You Are” below.
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Leon Bridges: Coming Home


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From Consequence Of Sound:
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Leon Bridges makes no bones about his musical upbringing; he’s not claiming to be some mystic transplant from another age. He grew up on Usher and Ginuwine, but hearing Sam Cooke unlocked the musical potential bubbling under the surface. Coming Home uses the tools and formulas of Cooke and Marvin Gaye without embellishment. It’s also telling that the decision was instinctual. The happiness he got from hearing and then recreating that music is palpable, infused into the bones of these songs. Nothing about Coming Home feels calculated. The key track is “Lisa Sawyer”, a cotton candy puff of storytelling in which Bridges tells his mother’s life story over an easy-strolling gospel pop track. It’s hard to say whether the aww-inducing description (“the complexion of a sweet praline, hair long as the sea, heart warm like Louisiana sun, voice like a symphony”) or musical flourishes (tenor sax solo and wordless girl-group backing harmonies) are sweeter. Bridges’ love for his mother and for the music drips golden like honey: something natural that exists for its own sake. The brassy “Better Man” shows off Bridges’ more upbeat side — one listen, and you’ll be able to envision him and a few backup singers stepping one hip out toward the audience and snapping in unison. The production, aided by vintage gear and the helping hands of White Denim’s Austin Jenkins and Josh Block, hums throughout Coming Home, picking the right spot for every lazy drum fill or punch of horns. Bridges similarly varies his delivery, offering smoky ribbons on the excellent “Smooth Sailin’” and full-throated, elongated vowels on closer “River”. Though the album lodges itself in a single era, it makes the most of the various strains of R&B and soul that the time had to offer. Often, blatantly retro acts can feel like Halloween costumes on a trick-or-treater: an approximation of something familiar worn temporarily to get something in return. The best retro acts, though, feel more like the work of professional costumers, the kind that get Oscars for making you believe they stepped right out of another era. On Coming Home, Bridges solidly aligns with the latter, his soulful R&B studied and nostalgic, but also immediate and emotionally true.”
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Coming Home is out now on Columbia; check out the title track below.
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Desaparecidos: Payola


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From Consequence Of Sound:
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“Since the last Desaparecidos album, Conor Oberst has aged thirteen years. If you’ve kept up with his songwriting with Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, or his work as simply Conor Oberst, you’ve noticed maturity has impacted his music on all fronts. There’s been a move away from his boyish, emotional lyrics, and his sonic arrangements shun lo-fi home recordings, growing in scope as cohort Mike Mogis has improved in his own right as a producer. As Oberst has grown up, so has his audience, and a turn from the songs that first got him noticed has always been appropriate, with a return to the music of Oberst’s youth never really considered a possibility either within the confines of Bright Eyes or under his own name. This rule of thumb does not apply to Desaparecidos. The Omaha-based five-piece have picked up right where they left off with the now beloved Read Music/Speak Spanish, turning any notion that sonic growth is required as decades pass into vapor of flawed logic. Instead, the new album, Payola, sounds perfectly at place next to Read Music/Speak Spanish, yet never requires a familiarity with anything Oberst has made before to appreciate the inciting content or punk-indebted, melodically inviting songwriting. This makes Desaparecidos’ move to punk’s preeminent label, Epitaph, make all the more sense, even if it’s surprising to see Oberst working outside his own longtime label, Saddle Creek. In the end, Desaparecidos are making a play to reach beyond Oberst’s built-in niche. Sure, Mogis is still turning the knobs, but the band is presented as a band apart from Oberst’s personality, with longtime members Landon Hedges, Matt Baum, Denver Dalley, and Ian McElroy all integral to the process of making Desaparecidos work as a group effort. Instrumental sections like the big finish of “10 Steps Behind” and the riff around which “MariKKKopa” is built are as memorable as any of Oberst’s fiery words. The overall impression is that Oberst couldn’t do this on his own, and his reliance on others may be the ultimate sign of maturity. At that, Payola is more than its politics, more than Oberst’s star power, and more than a nostalgia trip for people who adored the group’s debut in 2002. Few bands can return after a 13-year absence and sound vital and fresh, transforming an old-school approach into a process that sounds original. That’s precisely what Desaparecidos have done, making Payola a welcome comeback surprise.”
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Payola is out now on Epitaph; check out “City On The Hill” below.
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Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material


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From The Telegraph:
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“Small-town Texan singer Kacey Musgraves caused a stir at last year’s Grammy awards when she beat Taylor Swift to the podium, winning both Best Country Song and Best Country Album. The album – Same Trailer Different Park – revealed a songwriter of easy-going charm and quick wit, inspired by the vintage country cool of Roger “King of the Road” Miller and John Prine. The song – “Follow Your Arrow” – was a sparky little self-acceptance anthem which ruffled Nashville’s conservative feathers with a chorus that ran: “Make lots of noise/ Kiss lots of boys/ Or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into/ When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight/ Roll up a joint, or don’t (I would!)/ Just follow your arrow wherever it points.” Her new album is a successful repetition of the formula: sweet, crisp country licks with witty twists of live-and-let-live philosophy. First single “Biscuits” bounces with banjo as Musgraves advises listeners to “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy”. There’s a simple warmth and motivational pluck to Musgraves that recalls Dolly Parton. Her record label fought for her to change the first word of the line “Pissin’ in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener” to “Spittin’ ” but she refused. And why should she make concessions to the Stetsoned FM jocks? According to Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart, all 13 of 2014’s most-played country songs were by male artists. It’s a big problem for the genre, but Musgraves cheerfully dismisses the sexists on “Good Ol’ Boys Club”, declaring: “I don’t need a membership to validate/ The hard work I’ve put in and the dues I’ve paid/ Cigars and handshakes?/ ’Preciate ya, but no thanks.” The song also takes a cheeky swipe at her more polished peer Taylor Swift as Musgrave refuses to be “another gear in a big machine”: Big Machine being the label that has overseen Swift’s crossover from country to pop. The good-natured rebellion continues on title song “Pageant Material”, in which Musgraves brushes off the expectations placed on a Southern girl. “I ain’t pageant material/ I’m always higher than my hair/ And it ain’t that I don’t care about world peace/ But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit.” Slower numbers laze in sun-dazed pedal steel and the dreamy opener, “High Time”, even has a whistling hook. Once she’s finished putting the boot into Nashville, this self-professed “Dimestore Cowgirl” sure knows how to put her boots up.”
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Pageant Material is out now on Mercury Nashville; check out “Biscuits” below.
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High On Fire: Luminiferous


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From Popmatters:
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“Some bands have so perfected their sound that major stylistic shifts aren’t necessary to keep pumping out quality records. Take High on Fire, for instance. The Oakland metal outfit recently released their seventh studio album, Luminiferous, and, honestly, it really isn’t that much of a departure from their debut, 2000’s The Art of Self Defense, and everything in between. But make no mistake, that’s definitely not a knock on the record. In fact, it’s a testament to the greatness of High on Fire. Their ability to consistently write fresh and exciting material while not straying too far from their thrash-y stoner metal comfort zone is impressive. High on Fire does continually tweak, retool and improve upon their sound, however. Their previous release, 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis, found guitarist Matt Pike really tapping into the sludgier side of his former band Sleep. That record’s heaviness resonated among fans as a logical progression from the band’s 2010 breakthrough, the masterpiece Snakes For The Divine. This time around, there’s a vast melodic improvement in the vocals. Pike is definitely more known for his mighty riffage than vocal hooks, but perhaps that changes with Luminiferous. Instrumentally, “The Falconist” isn’t the most exhilarating number in the High on Fire catalogue. It’s a simple metal shuffle in the vein of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”, but the vocals add a dark abrasiveness to it all that makes it much more effective. Plus, actually hearing Pike enunciate words is an added bonus. “The Cave” is another where the vocals take the reigns. While not a slight, “The Cave” might be the closest High on Fire has ever come to a power ballad. It trudges along and relies on quiet-loud-quiet dynamics to build momentum. Yet, it’s Pike’s guttural howls that really ups the song’s “devil horns” factor. But Luminiferous isn’t all about the vocals. There are a number of tracks that prove High on Fire can still hang with the heaviest, thrashiest bands around. “Slave The Hive” features a real mind-fuck of a riff that goes forwards, then backwards, then forwards again. Drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz dominate the moody rhythms of “The Dark Side of the Compass”. But it’s the title track that absolutely takes the award most relentless riff assault. “Luminiferous” features the perfect combination of scatterbrained metal riffs and unhinged screaming and will likely become a setlist staple on the band’s upcoming tour. Overall, Luminiferous is simply the best team in the league doing what they do best. In most cases, that’s winning, but in this case, that’s producing some of the finest metal on the planet. Don’t be surprised if you’ve heard this before, but, with Luminiferous, High on Fire serve up a strong contender for best metal record of year.”
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Luminiferous is out now via eOne Music; listen to “The Black Plot” below.
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Bully: Feels Like


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From NPR:
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“Alicia Bognanno isn’t one for wasted motion: The indefatigable lead singer of Nashville’s Bully crafts her songs for maximum impact in minimal time, taking care never to overstay her welcome or overdress her arrangements. Feels Like, the Nashville band’s effervescent debut, speeds by in about half an hour, having left behind a trail of two- and three-minute songs that stick in the brain for ages. Still, though it’s easy to fixate on the skill and charm with which Bully’s songs channel the harder-edged sounds of early-’90s college radio, this isn’t just a collection of confections or simple throwbacks. Bognanno laces her writing with playful turns of phrase and, at times, self-doubt that stings: “I question everything,” she sings in “Trying,” adding, “My focus, my figure, my sexuality.” It would have been easy to fill these grungy speedball jams with nonsense words or simple sloganeering, but Bognanno knows when to dig under the skin and fish around. Sweet and fizzy, barbed and aggressive, Feels Like benefits from its sublime simplicity — from all the hooks and riffs and snarls at its surface — while smartly undercutting it at the right times. These are speeding-with-the-windows-down songs, but they also feel true to the life of the charismatic ball of nerves at their core.”
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Feels Like is out June 23 via Star Time International/ Columbia; listen to “I Remember” below.
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