Tag Archives: making music

EP cover art reveal, and some thoughts

Update: Listen to clips from the EP NOW!

I’ve been so lucky to have cover art for my new EP “Voidform” from the exceptionally talented beeple, check it out:


Doesn’t that just look utterly amazing?! Every time I look at it I get chills. Thanks Mike, I owe you one — bigtime.

I’m currently spending the last few days tinkering with the last few bits and bobs on the tracks for the EP (in fact, they go to mastering in two days so at that point I need to be done for sure — hard deadlines: they work).

As the tracks have evolved, they have certainly changed quite a bit, especially the ones featuring vocals by Limbic Void and Hunz. I must say it’s been a delight to work with actual songwriters on these tracks. It’s amazing how much creative energy can be sparked by just listening to someone’s take on what you’ve made, and if it’s one thing I’m sure of after the process on this album it’s that I’m going to do more collaborations in the future. It’s been insanely fun and rewarding.

With regards to the style of the tracks I’m genuinely clueless about what people’s reactions are going to be. For the people who follow what I do, especially the ones that started listening to my stuff after “Catzilla” came out, I’ll say this: there’s no dubstep on this album. There’s bass — for sure — and drums, and distorted things, and high energy stuff as well. Don’t worry about that.

But, there’s also vocals, and actual songwriting, and melodies (poppy ones, even), and I’ve used the same process that I did with my previous EP “Hit The Grave Running”, which is stupidly simple: Do I like it?

I dunno, it’s a little unnerving to release music, especially to people with preconceived notions or set expectations. I hope you will all like what I’m putting out, but we’ll know on December 7th I guess. ;)

PS: if you follow me on Twitter, I’ll start posting previews and sneak peaks of the tracks on the album next week.

Throwing my hat over the wall

One of the difficult things about being creative is knowing when to stop; knowing when something is good enough to be shared with others. Usually, I have a fairly good sense about this, but it’s always challenging. Look: I’m not saying this is an actual problem in the same sense that serious things in our society are, but hey, it is what it is. :)

One of the strategies I’ve used in the past is to simply remove options, forcefully and deliberately. Like when I decided to go all-in on switching to Reaper as my only DAW, or long ago when I decided that pirating music software was both stupid and counter-intuitive. When I released my first EP “Hit the grave running” almost three years ago, I just did a quick calculation of how much time I would need to finish it if I stuck to a good schedule and then announced the date.

So that’s what I’m doing now as well. December 7th 2016, my next EP will be released. It’s a Wednesday, which a cursory bit of research tells me is a good day to release new (indie) music, and it’s a couple of weeks before Christmas, so it won’t drown in the jingle bells madness or in the post-Christmas music dead-zone.


The title, the album art (OH MY GOD THE ALBUM ART IS AMAZING!), track list, SoundCloud clips and teasers and all of that jazz will follow soon enough. But for now, if you’d like to keep track of what I’m up to, the best way is to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, I know: “Oh yeah right, more social spam!” you’re thinking, but I’m not that bad really.

Kit-list (and why it doesn’t really matter)

Once in a while I’m asked what gear I use. Though these days it’s usually more along the lines of “You use Massive, right?” – now I don’t blame people for asking that, given that if you ask any aspiring EDM-musician, Massive is probably the soft-synth they can all name instantly.

To answer that question: I do _have_ Massive, but it’s not my go-to soft synth at all. Yeah, I’ve used it here and there, but it’s not even on every track or remix I do. So, I thought I’d write a short post about what software and hardware I use, just to try to draw a picture of how I work when creating music. Not that the list is particulary interesting or even valuable in any way, but just because as I write this I’m stuck on a 11-hour flight to San Francisco and I don’t really have anything better to do.


  • Reaper (DAW) – should come as no surprise really. I have used everything from Sony ACID up to Digidesign Protools and pretty much anything in between. In the late 90s I used Cakewalk (now Sonar) and Logic, but I never really felt comfortable with those DAWs. Same goes for Protools: it’s just so slow and cranky (drivers, OS updates, breaking files) and really not that intuitive. I have touched Ableton Live a few times but I didn’t like it much. Too flat, and the “stacked loop”-approach feels unorganic to me. That said: which DAW you use is honestly completely irrelevant. If anyone ever tells you that you need to use this-and-that DAW to be able to make so-and-so music, you should probably stop listening to that person immediately since they are full of shit. Your DAW is your hammer – you pick your nails and what to build yourself.
  • Tone2 Gladiator 2 (Synth) – this is my go-to synth. It’s usually the first one I try when I want to get to a particular sound. It can create some really gritty stuff and still be silky smooth for pads and strings.
  • NI Reaktor (Synth) – I don’t really use Reaktor itself that much, but rather synths based on it. My favourite Reaktor synth is Razor, which works very well for FM-like insanity leads.
  • NI Massive (Synth) – yeah, it’s on the list, but I don’t use it much.
  • KiloHearts Faturator (FX, distortion) – go-to plugin for subtle saturation as well as nice crunch and overdrive.
  • Fabfilter Pro-Q/Pro-C/Pro-L (EQ, compressor, limiter) – Insanely usable plugins that I use all the time.
  • Brainworx bx_XL V2 (M/S mastering limiter) – Limiting on the mastering stage. Gets things loud without crushing them. Love it.
  • Brainworx bx_digital V2 (M/S digital mastering processor) – EQ and M/S processing for mastering. Mono-control for bass and suchlike.
  • ValhallaRoom (Reverb) – it’s easy to control and sounds awesome. Nobrainer.
  • D16 Decimort (Bitcrusher) – cheap, extensive bitcrusher. Very versatile.
  • D16 Syntorus (Chorus) – for life to multi-band distorted leads, as well as just simple and good chorus.

When it comes to how I work with hardware synths and FX, I usually go sample crazy. Yeah, I don’t have stuff hooked up to the DAW via MIDI for an entire session, but rather work on independent parts in MIDI and then record them and chop up/loop the samples afterwards. Working with audio-files gives me three important things:

1) iron-tight timing (no “put all your drums on channel 1 to keep them in sync” here),
2) control (cut, fade, EQ, effects – by keeping it inside the DAW, it makes things easier to manage as the project files grow),
3) destructive editing (yeah, I like it actually. I hate “having all the possibilities in the world” because then it’s easy to procrastinate and don’t commit to something).


  • RME Fireface 800 (Interface) – industry standard audio interface, FireWire-connected. Low latency, excellent transparent sound and super stable.
  • Roland Juno 106 (Analogue) – a classic. Used with a distortion pedal, the two built-in chorus effects and the Voltage Controlled Filter can produce utter madness.
  • Access Virus C (Digital) – another classic, but a so-called “virtual analogue”.
  • Roland TR-909 (Analogue) – need oompfh in your kick drum or to have the best hi-hats in the world? This is the unit.
  • Roland TB-303 (Analogue) – yeah, I do have one and I love it. Bring the resonance and cutoff down low for some insane bass-action. Switch to square and sample away. Also good for classic acid lines of course.
  • Arturia Minibrute (Analogue) – made in 2012, this new (!) analogue synth from french software makers (!) Arturia is the most fun you can have without breaking any laws.
  • Jomox Xbase 888 (Digital+Analogue) – drum machine for more creative sounds. Uploading short samples and playing around with it can yield interesting results, though I rarely take the time to do so.
  • Jomox T-resonator (Analogue) – time-delayed resonating filter. Feed something into this and it’ll turn into a resonating monster of a sound. Create lifts and fills with random inputs in seconds of tweaking.

It’s important to restate that while I do use some outboard gear and hardware synths, there is little that cannot be replicated with software today*, it’s simply that I work faster by quickly turning knobs to getting the sound I want and then sampling it than by staying totally in the software domain. Therefore, this list should not be seen as any sign for you to give up if all you have is a laptop and some software.

Don’t be fooled by massive (pun intended) hardware rigs or mega-desktop computer-monsters littered with all the latest releases from all your favorite music software vendors: learn a few things and learn them well, then add to that knowledge with more tools as needed.

If I can offer any advice (or you care to take it) it’s this: learn your tools. Read the manuals, then learn your tools again. A sawtooth output of Massive is no more or less basic than a sawtooth output from some random freeware VSTi you find on KVR. Also: another piece if advice – if you just want to get your idea down before its gone, or a sound fits well within your project: there is absolutely nothing wrong with presets.

* except the TB-303. Nothing beats the real thing :)

Catzilla the EP is out!


My new EP/single “Catzilla” is released today! I’m really looking forward to hearing what people think of it, since it has taken quite a while to get done. It’s released in advance of the main benchmark tool Catzilla from ALLBenchmark (for which I did all the sound and music) which is scheduled for release in January 2013.

Anyway, enough chit-chat — you would do me a great service if you listen to, share or perhaps even buy the EP. It has two great remixes (and if you buy it on BandCamp you even get some special bonus features!):

BandCamp: Listen and get it!
iTunes (EU): Get it!
iTunes (US): Get it!
Rdio: Listen now!
Amazon MP3:
 Get it!
Spotify: Listen now!
Google Play: Get it!
SoundCloud: Listen now!


Since releasing a soundtrack for a benchmark tool is something that I don’t think has been done before, I plan to share some insight into the stats of BandCamp, iTunes, Spotify and digital distribution when I start getting numbers from these sites (which should be around February next year — no, really — old media still dominates the stats :)

Update: here is the video as well:


Catzilla from Plastic Demoscene Group on Vimeo.

Don’t use audiowarez

Note: this post was originally posted in 2012. For some reason, it seems to have picked up some SEO steam or something, leading to a lot of people who are okay with piracy feeling the need to comment that I’m wrong. Let me save you the time: this post isn’t really about piracy. If you read it, you’ll know why, and perhaps not feel the need to tell me how utterly wrong my opinion is.

Yeah, it’s soapbox time. After a nice discussion on DAW preference, I wanted to highlight some points I’ve tried to make in earlier posts on my blog, specifically those centered around using pirated software to make music.

In short: don’t.

The longer explaination as to why you shouldn’t use pirated audio software can be summarized like this:

  • It’s illegal. Ought to be obvious, but a shocking amount of people don’t know/care.
  • You start hoarding. You install “everything” you read about online, which leads to…
  • You won’t learn anything. This is the most important point!
  • Your system will turn unstable. Yes, it will. Bad cracks, malware (and loads of it) will turn your highly tuned audio-PC-monster into a sluggish 286 after a long night of partying. If you’re super-unlucky, you’ll also be hacked in some way or another. So much for “savings”.

Let me focus on the important point: you won’t learn anything by bathing in pirated plugins and softsynths. Why? Because you’ll just skip around, testing one plugin after another and never actually learning to know the plugin, what makes it tick, or even if it’s a good one to begin with.

Too much in the music production world is, unfortunately, about quick wins or “brands”. You see BT use this and that and think “OMG! That’s all I need to make music like BT!” — of course, this isn’t even close to being true, and everyone knows it, but self-delusion is a powerful force.

This is also the reason why today, in the days of Skrillex, that “Massive and FM8 = dubstep”. If I see one more “Make that signature Skrillex talking bass in Massive”-video on YouTube I’m going to vomit all over myself.

Therefore, instead of hoarding plugins and installing a gazillion softsynths, I recommend this alternative approach — it’s not littered with InstaMusic(tm) tips, but then again, that’s just the way it is:

  • Buy a legal copy of your favourite DAW and install it fresh. I like Reaper.
  • Check the bundled plugins, and IF you miss something — install just one of each “basic feature”-plugin. Yes, that means one compressor, one reverb, one delay, one EQ etc. This is to learn. You can expand later, but keep the count low.
  • Force yourself to use only those plugins. Learn all about them. Read the documentation!
  • Learn the built-in features of your DAW. They are better than you think.

The upside of this approach is that you’ll know your tools, which means that you’ll know what to do and when to do them! This means that you’ll be able to know exactly which plugins and methods to use later on, when you know all you need to know of the basics and want to upgrade.

End of rant. :)

Quick pitch-trick in Reaper

There’s one thing in ACID that I missed in Reaper, but thanks to this little trick I can have it here as well: using the +/- keys on the numpad to pitch the selected piece of audio either up or down a seminote. This is an insanely quick and efficient way to tweak a take without messing about in context menus or “Clip Properties”.

What we’ll do is to create a macro (or an “Action”, if you will) that binds the +/- keys to a function in Reaper that’s (unfortunately) usually a little buried. The end result will be that hitting either of those keys when you’ve marked a piece of audio will pitch it up or down but preserve the playback rate — meaning, the length will not be affected.

If you do wish to change the playback rate as well, simply use Increase item rate by ~6% (one semitone) preserving length, clear ‘preserve pitch’ instead of Item properties: Pitch item up one semitone which I’ve used in the example below.

This trick doesn’t require installation of add-on software, tweaking of system files or anything spooky at all. :) Here we go:

1) Go to Actions > Show action list


2) Click New next to Custom actions


3) Under Filter, enter “pitch semitone” and the list below will show only items which includes that text


4) Drag the item Item properties: Pitch item up one semitone into the right panel and give the action a name — I use “+1 semitone”, then click Ok


5) Under Shortcuts for selected action click Add…


6) In the field next to Shortcut, click, then press the + key on your keyboard to record the keystroke. Check that the field now reads NumPad +, and click Ok


7) Now just go back to step 2 and repeat the process for Item properties: Pitch item down one semitone and attach that to the key on your keyboard and you’re done!


From one groove-based producer to another

Once in a while, you stumble upon a website, a video, a text or a story that you experience and just go “Yeah, exactly! Why can’t I explain it that well to people?!”. This is exactly the feeling I’m left with after watching this series of videos by breakbeat producer Ctrl-Z. I’m usually not a fan of YouTube-tutorials, because they tend to be very badly done.

This one is an exception. In fact: it is bloody brilliant.

I’m not a musical genius, I’m more of a groove-base producer..

It was that quote who made me go into Vulcan mind-meld-mode with Tommy Dash. In short, there is absolutely nothing in this video-series I don’t agree with, and even better: he explains all of the concepts and techniques so goddamn smoothly and easily – anyone can understand them.

If you’re into electronic music (not just breakbeat) you owe yourself to watch the series because it is filled to the rim with great tips and tricks. If, at the end of it, you didn’t learn anything, you’re already BT and can relax knowing you’re already brilliant enough as it is.

Needless to say, most of us aren’t BT, and therefore stand to benefit from watching these videos. I put them into a playlist for you, so go ahead – watch them now!

If you can’t be bothered to spend 50 minutes learning techniques and tricks that’ll make you a better producer then you’re being stupid. That said, if you are going to watch them later but just want the quick-caption-review of the most important bits, here they are:

  • You’ll learn how to treat your low-end to make your tracks sound good in clubs (essential!)
  • Learn how to fix phasing issues – it might sound boring, but you need to know this
  • Put your drums in submixes – yes, do it – it will help you!
  • Compose rocking basslines and treat them the right way
  • Dealing with vocals in a mix that’s mid-high-heavy already
  • Really quick ways to avoid spending your days drawing automation data
  • How not to piss off your mastering engineer (essential!)
  • When not to use distortion (what?! yes, there are times when you shouldn’t)
  • A multitude of “I should have thought of that” tips to keep your tracks non-boring
  • Many, many tips for NI Massive – if you use that synth, you need to see these just for those tips

So that was my “two-months late” fourth blogpost.. and it’s not even my content. How lazy! But: don’t waste time on semantics – watch those videos instead. Thanks to Never Say Die Records for making them available on the web, and support your tutor by buying some Ctrl-Z music on iTunes.

    Taking your Windows home studio with you on your Mac laptop (or vice versa)

    Disclaimer: if you are not keen on taking a small step outside of your comfort-zone, this guide might not be for you. However: if you’re willing to spend a few hours (and perhaps a few bucks, depending on your current setup) you might find it very handy and a headache-remover.

    Let me paint you a picture: you have a powerful PC or Mac at home on which you do all of your DAW-related tasks – recording, composing and mixing. You have your expensive studio monitors, your MIDI-keyboard, perhaps some outboard gear or physical synths. I have all of that, and yet, what I end up using most of the time is just the computer and my DAW of choice plus VSTi soft synths and some sample CDs.

    In this loosely-formatted guide I’ll show you how I manage to take most of my studio-life on the road on my laptop without much hassle. The trick lies in what tasks you perform where – and a little bit of technology and internet wizardy. Note: my examples will be based around my own usecases (which is: Windows-PC at home, Macbook Pro when travelling), but if you’re using the same OS in both places you can just skip over those bits.

    1) Picking the rights tools for the job

    More often than not, the tools are there for you – to aid and assist you, to comfort and help you along your way. This is not always the case with audio software though. Even so-called cross-platform bundle-files from Pro Tools, the perhaps most recognized name in audio technology today, does not always work the way it should. Take a session-file from a Mac and move it to a different Pro Tools version on a PC, and it might be broken, or not even open.

    The first step is choosing a DAW to work in that handles their files the same way, no matter the platform. For me, that DAW is Reaper, but it could also be Cubase or Logic which are known to be good in that regard. Your mileage might vary, so check the compatibility before you begin. Also be aware that some DAW suites do not allow you to install the license on two machines at the same time, which is a dealbreaker if you indeed plan to use your laptop when you’re out of your home studio.

    The second part is to make sure you use plugins that have both a Windows and a Mac version. Not all plugins offer cross-platform compatibility (or two different versions) so be sure to check that out before you begin. Generally, Native Instruments are a good bet if you want to use the same software on both OSX and Windows. Bonus: their licenses do indeed allow installation on two machines at the same time.

    2) Freedom is not free..

    In this guide I’m using Dropbox to keep files and folders in sync. There is a free version that you can use if you just want to experiment a bit, but if you want to really cut loose from your home studio, you’ll quickly find that the 2 GB space included will come sort of your requirements. I have the 50 GB version, which is $9.99 a month, and considering I also use it to sync work-files and other non-musically-related stuff, it’s a goddamn bargain.

    If you have never heard about Dropbox, allow me to take 30 seconds to explain it to you: Dropbox is centralized storage (in the cloud, as they say in these Web 2.0-days) which is a copy of the files and folders you choose to host there. If you install Dropbox on more than one computer, the same files and folders are synced down (read: copied down from the cloud) to all of the computers you use Dropbox with. If you change or add a file to any one of your “Dropboxed” computers, that file is almost instantly added to all of your other computers.

    If I totally failed at describing the concept, watch this video. If you need a guide to installing it, I found one on YouTube which might be of assistance.

    Note: It’s not exactly iron-clad, but as a very remedial sort of backup, Dropbox keeps a couple of revisions of your stuff, so if you accidentally delete an important file from your laptop, and it then also disappears from your home computer, just log into the web interface for Dropbox and restore the file from there. Now, the revisions don’t go that far back, and the more space you use on your Dropbox, the less it revisions it will keep. It is STRONGLY suggested that you back up all of your stuff regulary to a more conventional destination, such as an external harddrive, or better: a 24/7 automated online backup service such as Mozy or CrashPlan. I have personally used both and while there are not much difference, my personal preference lies with CrashPlan.

    The second part is hardware-based. Now, this might be skippable for you, but I find that having the same soundcard with me, and the same set of headphone as well, really let’s me work as if was at the same machine the entire time. I use a Fireface 800, but you’re free to go with whatever gets the job done. My reasons for picking the Fireface 800 was that it has stable drivers on both Windows 7 and OSX.

    3) Centralize your storage

    This one is a biggie. If you’re anything like me, you like to keep your files organized in a certain manner. Luckily for me, the way I do it is very easy to mobilize. This is what my directory structure looks like on the PC:

    For samples:


    For project files:


    Under the project directory I have two sub directories: “assets” and “renderings”. In “assets”, I keep loose files such as individual samples for that particular project, and in “renderings” I keep the final rendered WAV-files as well as MP3-versions of them for quick auditions on a variety of platforms (I’ll come back to this).

    This makes it very easy for me to set these master folders up as shared in Dropbox. Sharing the folders will make them automatically sync betwee the computers if there are changes to them or any of the sub directories or files.

    4) Pick your battles. Don’t go into this thinking that the road is the ideal place for all tasks. There are some things (like proper monitoring and mixing) that are best suited to being done in the proper environment. Leave those tasks for when you are in your home studio. Tasks suited for the road are: composing, working with others, recording and live performances of course.

    If you’ve read so far, you probably guess where this is all heading – there is no magic button or secret sauce. All you have to do is to make sure you use software that play well on both platforms and keep your files in sync between them. However: after having done this for a while I’ll share some small, personal tricks with you that might make things even easier:

    1. Only sync what you need to. Try to just sync those sample-CDs you find yourself always reaching for, and the projects you’re currently working on. Don’t include “Bernard Huffy’s Brass Band Gold” from your sample-CD directory unless you actually use that on every project. In which case there is no hope for you anyway :)
    2. Use the Dropbox mobile clients to take your music with you everywhere. This is why I always keep an MP3 in the “renderings”-directory of my music projects at all times. I can then play that over the air via Dropbox on my iPhone. I can even “star” it to keep a local copy at all times. Fantastic for previews and sharing your latest track with friends in bars.
    3. Use some sort of remote management software on your main home studio computer. This is for the times when you discovered that the sample or project you wanted wasn’t in the shared folder and you need a copy of it ASAP. I use LogMeIn Free because it’s very good, works on both Windows and Macs, in addition to being totally cost free. For ultimate freedom, you can also get the iPhone/iPad version of the client, but the price at time of writing is $29.99, making it sort of a luxury for most. Note: even though it says you’re signing up for a “Pro Account”, you’re really just starting a trial. After 30 days it’s converted to a “Free Account”
    4. You can disable syncing of certain folders temporarily, if you know you’ll be abroad, roaming on some hellishly expensive 3G-modem or something.

    I hope this “guide” was of some use to you. Take care!

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    How I learned to stop using ACID and started to love the Reaper

    If you know anything about musicians, it’s that they hardly ever change their DAW software. If you didn’t know that already, well, now you do. I’m no exception to this rule. In fact, after my childhood years using trackers on the Amiga (and later, on the PC), and a three/four-year flirt with Cakewalk and Pro Tools, I started using ACID – and I loved it!

    This was around 2000/2001, and back then it was released by Sonic Foundry – the people behind the quite excellent Sound Forge editing suite. A few years later, Sonic Foundry was bought by Sony (taking both products, and more, with them) and it was around that time that things started going tits up with the ACID suite.

    Still – I kept using it. Both because I knew the program inside and out, and also because – despite frequent crashes and lots of limitations and annoyances – I could work quite fast in it. The third reason looming in the background was of course the most obvious: there wasn’t really any alternatives out there. So, I stuck with it – for 10 years.

    I’m glad to say that has now changed.


    A few months ago I became aware of DAW named Reaper. At the time I wasn’t really doing much music because of work and fatherhood, and I didn’t think much of it. I downloaded it, ran it, liked it fine enough and closed the program. It was about a week ago that I suddenly felt the urge to do a little composing again, and just for kicks I “forced” myself to try Reaper instead of just firing up ACID like so many times before, and boy am I glad I did. In about an hour I had learned pretty much all I needed to work both fast and efficiently with the program, and I started to feel at home in it.

    Of course, I knew that the people behind Reaper (a former Nullsoft-founder (WinAMP) and the guy behind the excellent Stillwell Audio VST-plugins) had set up Reaper to feature a lot of the same shortcuts as ACID, in order to spur some conversion-wins from that camp, but there was more than that. The software didn’t crash, it didn’t lag, it loaded both softsynths and samples faster than ACID, and the ease of use was just breathtaking.

    I especially liked how friggin’ easy it was to set up automation. It’s literally “right-click, pick the controller you’d like to automate, done!”


    It’s sort of hard to describe how much of an advantage something like that is for someone who makes music using the computer, but it is is a really big deal. After I discovered that fantastic feature I kept delving deeper and deeper into the software and found feature after feature that I never knew I missed, but now cannot imagine living without.

    At this point I should mention that Reaper runs on both Windows and Mac. For someone like me, who has a home studio with a pretty beefy Windows 7-machine and a MacBook Pro for work and travels, it’s brilliant. Not only is it cross-platform, but both versions actually work. In addition to that, I also use a USB 2.0 soundcard with a breakout-box, which also works on both my PC and my Mac. Brilliant! (oh, and I have a follow-up post with portable studio tips in me, I just have to find time to write it).

    I don’t know what kind of people will end up reading this, but if you’re into musicmaking and you’re using something like Pro Tools, Sonar, Logic, ACID or one of the many other DAW programs out there, I urge you to give Reaper a try. The trial version is not crippled in any way, and if you decide to switch (something I predict you will if you just spend a few hours with the software), it will only cost you just $60 $40 to purchase a licensea bargain no matter how you see it!

    This turned into more of a rant than I thought it would, but hey – that’s what blogs are for. :)

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