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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



mini-tour report.

May 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on mini-tour report.

Dropped Muriel Anderson off at Stansted airport this afternoon, after three gigs with her over the weekend, and three very fine gigs they were.

First up was Lauderdale House in Highgate, part of the acousticmasters.com summer concert series – it was especially nice to catch up with Mo Foster who dropped in to say hi before the gig, and to meet Terry and Hugh who organised the concert series. Performers on the small club venue level rely on a select group of dedicated, generous magic people who put lots of effort into making great music available to concert goers, and Hugh and Terry fit that category. Hugh’s a marvellous guitarist in his own right, and you can catch his at one of the future concerts at Lauderdale… Anyway, the gig went well to a ‘select’ audience, who were very generous in their CD and DVD buying :o)

Saturday was a day off, and a chance for Muriel to see a bit of London (after I dragged her down to Brick Lane for Sarda‘s leaving curry) – the small person and I took Muriel to see Trafalgar Square, Downing Street , The Houses of Parliment Big Ben, Westminster Abbey etc. before walking back along the south bank of the Thames for coffee in the National Theatre…

Sunday was the second of our gigs, this one was at the Ship Theatre, Sevenoaks in Kent, and was part of the Sevenoaks guitar festival, organised by another one of these marvellous promoter people, John Levett. The Ship is a gorgeous theatre, part of a private school, with tremendous acoustics and a lovely listening audience. Muriel and I got to do more duet stuff, experiment with a few improv things as well as playing on eachother’s tunes, and much fun was had by all!

And finally, Monday was back at Traders in Petersfield, promoted once again by the truly marvellous Stiff Promotions – if only every small town in the UK had its own Iain Martin, I’d be touring constantly. Thanks to Iain and Jeff who owns the venue, Traders has a fantastic program of live music, this being my third visit there this year, having played solo and with Michael Manring. As with both my previous Traders gigs, this one was sold out, and Muriel and I did even more duet stuff and improv, definitely boding well for future collaborative stuff.

So a marvellous three gigs. My new mixing desk arrived on Friday morning, so this gave me a chance to try it out, and my setup of Accugroove 110 cabs, QSC poweramp and Mackie Desk worked beautifully for Muriel’s guitar. I’ve never played through another bass rig that could reproduce the sound of an acoustic guitar as faithfully as this!! Amazing stuff.

On the bad news front, Muriel and I found out just before we started the tour that our mutual friend, Eric Roche has just been diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland. Eric is an oustanding fingerstyle acoustic guitarist, teacher and music journalist, so our careers have followed similar paths in lots of ways, Muriel and I visited Eric today, and he’s doing really well – he’s an amazing guy (his marvellous music makes even more sense when you meet him). Please pray for him, if that’s something you do. And to aid you in your prayers, you should get his latest CD, ‘With These Hands’ – I’m listening to it at the moment and it’s beautiful. He’s playing in Brighton tomorrow night, and has a few other gigs around before he goes for surgery in a couple of weeks time, so catch him live or get the CD, or both. His new CD can be bought here from Amazon (sorry, couldn’t find a small shop that had it listed…) and his site has details of his other CDs. Go get ’em.

Soundtrack – right now, Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’. earlier on, Denison Witmer, ‘Philadelphia Songs’ (he’s playing in London this week, hoping to catch him at the Windmill in Brixton on Sunday); Nick Harper, ‘Double Life’; Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, ‘One From The Heart’; Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock, ‘A Closer View’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’; James Taylor, ‘October Road’.

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1 down, 6 to go….

March 17th, 2004 · Comments Off on 1 down, 6 to go….

So last night was the first night on the tour with Michael Manring, and went exceedingly well. The show was at Mansons Guitar Shop in Exeter, and was sold out three weeks in advance, which is nice! The format was fun – we alternated between improvising duets, playing solo tunes and fielding questions from the audience, and got lots of very interesting questions. The duo material was really interesting – it bodes really well for the rest of the dates.

There’s already one review up at talkbass, from Matthew Foote – thanks Matthew, glad you liked it. If you were there, please feel free to post a review of the show over in the interact section of my website.

We almost didn’t make it, having had a tire blow out on the M25 about 15 miles from home, but we changed that and got back on the road pretty quick.

Touring with Michael is a lot of fun – I think I’d happily take him along even if he was a rubbish bassist… ;o)

The rest of the gigs are still selling really well – it’s going to be a great tour. Tomorrow night is Petersfield in Hampshire, then Friday daytime we’re at BassTech, Friday night in Brighton, Saturday in Reading, Sunday in London and finally Monday in Southampton. Please come along if you can, but do phone and book in advance, or you might not get in.

Soundtrack – John Coltrane, ‘Live At BirdLand’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’; Michael Jackson, ‘Off The Wall’; Stevie Wonder, ‘Natural Wonder’; Robben Ford, ‘Supernatural’; Dapp Theory, ‘Y’all Just Don’t Know’; Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’; Marc Johnson, ‘The Sound Of Summer Running’.

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Boo!!!! …no, really, I enjoyed it…

November 14th, 2003 · Comments Off on Boo!!!! …no, really, I enjoyed it…

…I was just saying your name!!!

Last night went to see Boo Hewerdine play. You’ve probably not heard Boo play, but you’ll have more than likely heard his songs, him having written for Eddie Reader, KD Lang and others. I saw him play at Greenbelt this year, and really enjoyed it, and as the gig was part of Delicatessen, organised by sarda and the cheat, then I had to go. Add to that the presence of Rob Jackson, looping guitarist and very nice bloke, and you’ve got yourself a great evening.

Airstar opened the evening – it’s always odd watching them, having played with them before, but nice to hear the songs, which are really strong, and to see the cheat doing a remarkable unwitting impersonation of paul field

Then Boo came on – somewhere in a parallel universe, Boo’s old band, The Bible, are hailed as the savours of itellegent pop and selling hundreds of thousands of records, while Paddy McAloon is out touring arts centres playing gloriously miserable songs to 90 enthralled punters who feel like their in some secret society for knowing who he is…

…in this universe, it’s clearly the other way round. Boo’s between song banter is hilarious and provides the perfect counter-weight to his miserable unlucky-in-life songs. Rob Jackson’s guitar playing is a thing of great beauty and wonder, and fortunately Boo gets this and gives him some room to loop and layer is Frisell-esque Telecaster loveliness through a few of the tunes. And Rosalie Deighton’s BVs are a little quiet, but add yet another layer to a glorious live sound.

So now I’m sat listening to Rob’s album ‘Wire, Wood and Magnets’, and it’s fantastic – really really lovely. The missing link between Frisell’s country exploits and Phil Keaggy’s acoustic instrumentals. Great sounds, great playing, and some exquisite tunes. Hopefully Rob and I will be recording something or other together soon, so watch this space. We’re also thinking of doing a gig or two – maybe theo and I, with Rob as well… lots of possibilities, but for now, go and buy his CD – there are lots of downloads on his website, so have a listen, then get it. you can buy Rob’s CD at the Burning Shed shop, which also happens to stock loads of other really really cool music – lots of Theo Travis’ other albums (start with Heart Of The Sun, it’s a masterpiece), NoMan (another great miserable adult pop band), and Peter Chilver’s albums (soundscape stuff, lots of fine bass work and a very silly sense of humour just beneath the surface).

Soundtrack Rob Jackson’s album’s just finished, and I’m now listening to Boo’s live album.

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Ross Noble Goes Global

July 28th, 2003 · Comments Off on Ross Noble Goes Global

I think I’ve posted about this before, but I’m listening to it again, so thought I’d post another link to Ross Noble Goes Global – one of britian’s finest comedians touring round the world doing gigs… very funny indeed…

Soundtrack Ross Noble right now, before that, Radio London.

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All work and no play…

February 21st, 2003 · Comments Off on All work and no play…

…would be a highly inaccurate way to describe my life.

However, the work content is now increasing once again, after a fairly relaxed easing into it after the exhausting tour of CA…

This morning so far has involved sending out lots of CDs – shipping a new box-load to CD Baby – probably the best online indie music store – well worth checking out. And also shipping out some other ‘normal’ orders that arrive via evinsol. There are now loads of different ways of buying my CDs – still very few shops, but it’s not really an angle I’ve been chasing, as unless there’s a demand, they just sit on the shelves and do nothing, and just the admin of keeping track of where they are would do my head in. So instead I stick, predominantly, with web and gig-sales – web-wise, most still come through evinsol, the main CD order link on my site, and the Pillow Mountain Records site, but I also sell a few through CD Baby, and GEMM.COM – the primary usefulness of those are that they are both heavily searched sites, so people can find out about me without me telling them, and also their pricing is in dollars, so it’s less confusing for all you lovely americans parting with your hard earned green-stuff.

the nice thing is that with the increase in reviews, interviews and radio airplay, the promotional process gets a momentum of its own – a google search on my name throws up tonnes of stuff, and there are now quite a lot of bass sites that link back to my site… Add to that you lovely people helping to spread the word, and playing the CDs to your friends (word of mouth is still the most powerful tool an independent musician has, so thanks!), and it all starts to look a little more viable, and less like I was mad to go the indie route in the first place. The problem of late has more been that the touring side of things has been too successful, and I’ve had very little time for promo! It’s fine, cos the sales of CDs at gigs are better than they are through magazine reviews and radio airplay anyway, but it still has to be done…

Add to that my teaching schedule (currently busier than it’s ever been!), and I have less and less time for play… which is no bad thing. I’ve stored up so much play-related-mellowness (recognised medical phenomena), that I can probably cope with doing a respectable amount of work finally. After all, I’m 30 and have a mortgage and a small hungry feline mouth to feed – responsibilities!

So the rest of the day will be spent trying to get details on my upcoming gigs (I’m meant to have one in Brighton next week, but know nothing about it yet!!), sending out some radio copies of Not Dancing, teaching (starting in 15 minutes), practicing (been working on some of the EDP stuff that I saw Andre do at the clinic we did together – he’s very good…)

And maybe a few minutes just mucking about on line in between… :o)

Soundtrack – this morning I’ve been listening to Attention Deficit’s ‘The Idiot King’, and Jughead’s self-titled CD – both very very good. Attention Deficit is Michael Manring’s trio with Tim Alexander from Primus and Alex Skolnik on guitar. Jughead is Ty Tabor from King’s X with Greg and Matt Bissonette. Yesterday, I was listening to ‘Contemplating The Engine Room’ by Mike Watt for most of the day – Mike’s amazing, his CDs are amazing, his indie-thinking is amazing and he’s a very sound chap – check out his forum at on talkbass.

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Normal Service Has Been Resumed

February 19th, 2003 · Comments Off on Normal Service Has Been Resumed

Apart from a slight residual sore throat, it seems life is back to normal… or maybe touring is normal, I’m just not used to normal yet…. who knows. Whichever, I’m settled back in at home. The last couple of days have involved a fair amount of teaching, some tidying, though not much, lots of cuddling the aged feline, who appears to have pretty refined taste in vegan food – mushroom pate, Quorn sausages and vegan bacon to be precise!! Today I’ve been sending out CD orders, which keep rolling in, reassuringly, then went down to the Gallery, originally to see Martin Peterson who makes the Sei basses, but he’s away, so I spent some time chatting to Alex, who now runs the shop there – very nice chap, who used to work at the Bass Centre. Nice to see that they’ve got a Lexicon MPX-G2 in the shop (the same effects processor that I use, in case you were wondering) – so if you’re looking for one, that’s the place to look!

My E-Bow has broken! I mean, it still works, but the catch on the battery compartment has gone, so I’ll have to keep the battery in place with an elastic band. What with that and my mobile phone, which has the battery gaffer taped in place, it’s a bit of a heath robinson life I lead…

It’s nice to be back playing a four string bass again – on the US tour, I borrowed a 6 string fretted bass from Modulus, and has my own 6 string fretless with me, so coming home and playing my four string is like picking up a toy – it’s so easy… and what’s more, I’ve been doing loads of tapping stuff since I got home – a technique I almost completely dropped about five years ago, but one that I’ve been showing to a couple of students recently, and which has been presenting some fun musical options… watch this space to see where that ends up!

Was reading ‘Further Along The Road Less Travelled’ by Scott Peck on the train, which is a fascinating book. Basically, it brings together psycotherapy and spirituality. Scott’s a christian, but arrived at where he is now on his journey via 20 very valuable years as a zen buddhist, and his zen thinking still informs much of his life and writing, leading to a fascinating take on where his training as a psychiatrist and his spirituality meet. Reading this follows on nicely from a great section in Frank Skinner’s Autobiography that the small person read to me the other day, where he talks about his Catholic faith, and a very very powerful experience he has at a Catholic church in Japan, which lead his to talk about the strangeness of being a person of faith in contemporary society, where most people cringe if you mention God, and also have a pretty skewed view of what it is to be a christian… I tend to avoid the label, for the most part, at least on first meeting people – primarily so that people’s experience of me will inform their thinking of what a christian is, rather than their misconceptions of what a christian is prejudicing them against me… This can be particularly a problem in the US, where much of what happens in the name of ‘the church’ is pretty seriously f-ed up, and where ‘christian’ is synonymous with a certain type of right-wing, republican, moral conservatism that doesn’t really reflect anything of what I perceive the life and teaching of Jesus to be about… always seemed a lot more radical than that to me… Anyway – the point being, it’s always interesting to read stuff -be it Scott Peck or Frank Skinner – by people who are struggling with the same questions about integrating faith and life that I, and just about every other ‘normal’ christian that I know is dealing with… It’s hard not to end up embarassed by the horse-shit that happens in the name of God – poor thing, She’s got the worst PR of anyone in history, and it’s our fault…

Er, where was I?? oh yes…

Soundtrack – been listening to Dave Pomeroy’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ album – all bass and voice, very good indeed. Dave was playing at the NAMM Bass Bash, and was brilliant. Also been listening to Mike Watt, another guy who played at the Bass Bash – his CD, ‘Contemplating The Engine Room’ is stunning – like a punk Tom Waits. Great story telling, some amazing guitar playing from Nels Cline, and Mike’s bass and voice doing baritone duets with eachother. outstanding.

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Sleep perchance to… wake up again at 4 in the morning…

February 14th, 2003 · Comments Off on Sleep perchance to… wake up again at 4 in the morning…

Jetlag!

never had it this bad before – three days in a row I’ve woken up at 4.30am, and usually I can sleep wherever and whenever I want… not good. In fact, have spent loads of time asleep since I got back – combination of jetlag, exhaustion from touring, and some sort of cold/throat infection thing I seem to have picked up somewhere along the way. Not dying, but not exactly on tip top form either…

So what have I been up to? not much, to be honest. Still trying to catch up on emails etc. Working on some more gigs for later in the year – newcastle in may, and a london one quite soon, I Think… more on that ASAP…

Saturday, if I’m well enough, I’ll be going on the stop the war demo in London – could be huge, should be huge. The more of the news I see, the more insane it all seems to get. Colin Powell trying to suggest the french are just getting their UN-kicks by stalling? er, no, I think you’ll find they’ve thought you were mad since day one for suggesting this war… Anyway, I’ll be there, infecting everyone with my viral stuff, but hopefully helping to let Blair know we think he’s a dickhead.

Today will be a tidying day – my mum’s arriving later on (coming down for the demo), and the house is a tip.

Soundtrack – yesterday, I just listened to ‘Lessons Learned…’ about six times in a row – definitely my favourite of my albums at the moment, and possibly destined for a CDR release before too long, maybe with another CD of ambient noodlings… we’ll see… Other than that, been listening to ‘The Willies’ by Bill Frisell (excellent as always), ‘Kakusei’ by DJ Krush (down tempo IDM – very cool indeed), and ‘this sentence is true (the previous sentence is false)’ by Sheila Chandra, which, as with all her stuff, is stunning. what else. Oh yes, the new album from Theo Travis, an album of solo alto flute looping called ‘Slow Life’, it’s lovely, naturally, as is all of theo’s music. And lastly, the new album from Michael Franti – ‘Sounds From The Front Porch’, which is just what the doctor ordered as the world heads towards more rich people bombing poor people.

And one last site to check out – www.axisofjustice.org – great site, run by Tom Morello I think, from Audioslave – is the audioslave album any good? been meaning to check it out… very good site anyway. go there and get informed!

oh and by the way, I posted a link to Todd Johnson, the bassist’s, site the other day as www.toddjohnson.com which turns out to be a hocket player or something… anyway, Todd’s real web address is www.toddjohnsonmusic.com – go pay him a visit, and ask him sports related questions… :o)

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Hotel California!

January 16th, 2003 · Comments Off on Hotel California!

sorry for the delay posting – I’ve not had that much computer access while I’ve been here.

anyway, the flight was fine, if a little long. and I arrived with all my gear intact (it’s always a little hairy flying with two Echoplexes and my Lexicon MPX-G2 as well as having my bass on the plane as hand luggage!) – anyway, I arrived, and Dan (tour promoter) picked me up at the airport, and took me back here, to where we’re staying. The weather is lovely (sorry for rubbing it in) – it’s hot even by southern californian standards. I could quite easily go outside and get sunburnt in a hour or so…

so what have we done so far? well, we picked up the amp stuff that I need for the tour from Ashdown, I had lunch with my chum Tanya, who lives here but is from Essex and used to write for Bassist. We went to the Baked Potato last night (we being Dan, me and Gene – a veteran chum of all my trips to the States – I stayed wtih Gene and his wife Linda for my first three or four visits to the states, and they’ve become really good friends over the years…)

Today Dan was off doing his gear rep bit, while Gene and I went to SWR to pick up some gear for Dan for the Bass Bash that is happening on Friday night (see gigs page for details), and then went shopping for CDs (now there’s a rare one for me…)

so haven’t done any gigs yet, but have just been getting aclimatised – I fell asleep on Monday evening at 5pm, and didn’t wake til 5am the next day – the worst case of jetlag I’ve ever had coming out here.

needless to say, I’m missing the small person and aged feline loads, but such is the peril of being a touring musician I guess – there has to be a down side somewhere, I ‘spose, and that’s it for me. It’d be great if I could bring them both with me… :o)

Soundtrack – I bought a few Cds with me – Jonatha Brooke ‘Steady Pull’, Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’, Prefab Sprout, ‘Jordan’ and ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’, Unamerican ‘Unamerican’, Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Sky Like A Broken Clock’, Phil Keaggy ‘Acoustic Sketches’, David Sylvian ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner ‘A Closer View’… right now I’m listening to one of the CDs I just bought – ‘Stanley Climbfall’ by Lifehouse.

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Some interesting recent listening

November 28th, 2002 · Comments Off on Some interesting recent listening

Back when I was in school (late 80s), we had a small group of friends
who would all head down to fat george’s record shop on Bridge Street in
Berwick on a Saturday morning to order records… any old records… the
more obscure the better.

In those pre-internet times, the source of all knowledge about what was
available was the Music Maker Publications big red book of records, which
listed just about everything that was on general release.

I bought some great stuff through that, and some total bollocks. Great
stuff, like Steve Berry – ‘Trio’, John Zorn – ‘Spillane’, the best of Weather
Report etc. etc… and some rubbish like ‘Electric Storm in Hell’ by White
Noise…

One record that we all really wanted to get but could never find was
‘Ladies Don’t Have Willies’ by a band called 64 Spoons. It seemed like the
most preposterous title for a single – add to that the daft band name, and
we had to know what it sounded like. But sadly, week after week, George
couldn’t find it, it was out of print… whatever, it never turned up.

Fast forward 15 years, and in the last two tours I’ve done, with the
Schizoid Band and Level 42, I’ve been touring with two ex-members of
said Spoons! Jakko Jakszyk (guitar/vox with Schizoids) and Lyndon
Conner (keys/vox with L42) were both in 64 Spoons!

Enter not-at-all-evil Dann, delving deep into his extensive CD collection
to provide an early 90s compilation of Spoonerisms from the late
70s/early 80s… and bizarrely enough, it’s pretty good. Very good in
places. Very silly and self conscious in other places, but sort of Squeeze
meets Cat-Food era Crimson, meets Joe Jackson with a touch of
Blockheads-funk… The kind of thing, that were it more widely known,
would now be forcing people onto the dance floor at schooldisco.com
events.

Still haven’t heard Ladies Don’t Have Willies though…

After that, the next CD I listened to couldn’t be more different Juldeh
Camara is a West African singer/composer and player of the one string
fiddle! I first heard his stuff on Charlie Gillett’s show on BBC London, but
then met up with Duncan Noble – a bassist who has assembled a touring
project with Juldeh, playing in the UK early next year.

It’s amazing how Juldeh manages to keep your attention… even mesmerise
you with just fiddle and voice. And judging by the range of material on the
CDR that Duncan gave me, he’s more than happy to recontextualise his
playing and writing into whatever setting is around, from acoustic blues
to funk/soul stuff… I really hope that their tour doesn’t clash with my dates
in California next year, as I’d love to see this live…

Finally got stuck into the last chapter of Derek Bailey’s ‘Improvisation –
its nature and practice in music’ book last night. It’s an amazing book, but
I do have a habit of dropping books somewhere in or around the last
chapter… seems to be a theme running through my life (do half the
washing up, write half a song, tidy half my office, etc. etc…)

Anyway, the last chapter is all about the Musicians Improvisors Collective
(MIC – I think that’s what it stands for…), and is very interesting indeed.
The whole book is very highly recommended for anyone interested in
improv and its relationship to music making as a whole…

Busy day today – meeting Jam-comedy-writer this afternoon, and going
to see Moby play tonight… well, going to meet up with Greta Brinkman,
who happens to be playing with Moby. Evil Harv’s coming as well, so that’ll
be my dose of eville for the week sorted then…

before that, need to tidy up here, as my mum arrives for a short stay
later on. Always nice to see my mum, cos she’s great!

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Celebrity Big Brother – nonsense

November 26th, 2002 · 1 Comment

Just finished watching Celeb Big Brother – what nonsense.
I know, I know – I watched it so I can’t complain… well, I
am kind of fascinated by reality TV… what is it that makes
it interesting? Why do we give a monkeys about 6 celebs
we wouldn’t turn over to watch if they were on anything
else? Sue is the only one of these I ever bother to wathc or
listen to doing anything else (her weekend lunchtime show with
Mel on Radio London is one of the finest things on radio…)

So why did I watch? I guess it’s that continued hope that it’s going
to suddenly become really interesting… like surfing the net way
beyond the point where you’ve exhausted all the things you really
wanted to look at, in the hope that you’ll find something fascinating…
which never happens…

Anyway, changing the subject entirely, this particular blog setup can
allow for a ‘comments’ function, where you blog-stalkers can post
responses to my dull ramblings… a function I’d love to use… if it
wasnt’ for evil harv’s evil schemes, and his total in ability to stop
himself from posting shit, given the chance…

soundtrack – been listening to the Best of Howard Jones
this evening, which brings back fab memories of touring with him
back in 1999, and contains some excellent songs (the definitive
versions, to my ears, of which are on his ‘Live Acoustic America’
CD, which the small person has stolen, so I couldn’t listen to
that just now…)

Also been listening to more of that new Keith Jarrett CD – good stuff.

Just got an email from not-at-all-evil Dann, who is a very fine writer,
who has just posted a couple of reviews of gigs involving me onto the
‘Evo’ site – the first one is of the 21st Century Schizoid Band and me
live in Croydon
, and the second one is of the manring/friesen/lawson gig
at Ocean in Hackney
– both well worth checking out. As is the rest
of the Evo site.

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