Monthly Archives: June 2017

hydrangeas for vampires

 

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June 29, 2017 · 1:52 pm

Monday night, or should I say Tuesday morning

 

 

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June 29, 2017 · 1:48 pm

BITE ME!! ! ! : FEUILLE DE TOMATE POIVREE by LOSTMARCH

The Black Narcissus

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Peppered Tomato Leaves, a ‘scented mist’ from Perfumes Longmarch that comes in great big bottles of 250ml to be sprayed everywhere (‘on t-shirts, tulips, Tintin, tissue, trapezes and tomahawks…’ ) is a stern, pared down tomato; bitter green, brusque and ruddy kneed from being dragged –  through the hedgerow backwards – by a lock-jawed, hardbodied sex fiend. In contrast to the tomate charmante we looked at the other day, the likeably extrovert but innocuous Vice Versa, this is a more attention-seeking, spiced matrix of green pungency.

After a beautifully fresh-leaved, anise-twisted opening of peppercorns, orange, cassis, and photorealistic tomato vines, the scent quickly loses tomato kudos and proceeds, nimbly, on a more rough and ragged Lady Chatterley path of outside sex. The musky, almost acrid, absinthe-green of Frederic Malle’s French Lover, immediately apparent and familiar, is here in the base of the scent: a deep, hardened ferret of no sweetness…

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NEW YORK STORIES : : : AD LUMEN + CODA + FOREVER NOW + CHEF’S TABLE by SCENT STORIES MiN NEW YORK (2017)

 

 

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It’s outrageous that I have never been to New York. Both D and I adore exploring the cities of the world, and I sometimes just start involuntarily daydreaming about all the places we have been together over the years, from Paris to San Francisco, Jakarta to Mexico City, Hanoi and Bangkok through Kuala Lumpur and Copenhagen, Miami and Rome, Seoul and Barcelona. Kyoto and New Orleans. All over the place. Berlin (where we have an apartment). Amsterdam. Hong Kong. But never New York (he once stayed there for a whole summer, but that was before we met). How can it be that I have never been to the city of cities, the one we know better than any other, from all the countless movies that are set there, that make the city itself the main protagonist so many times, that bask in their very New Yorkness: all the Woody Allens and Cassavetes and the Scorceses; all those eighties, Bloomingdale romances from Splash to Moonstruck to Desperately Seeking Susan to the street sprinklers and hot summer tensions of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever through to the tragic upscale beauty of the New York Ballet in my beloved Black Swan: I have lapped up it all, for decades, stashing the sensations thoroughly in my New York File; a lifelong mental treasure chest of aesthetics, clichés and imaginings that makes me certain that the city, when I finally get there one day, will never live up to the dream. Can the Brooklyn Bridge and the grand vistas of Manhattan, like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, ever reach their formidable promise?

 

Somehow, despite what I have just said, I know they will. Yes, I might find people pushy and materialistic, colder than I expect as they just keep their heads in the game and try to ‘make it’. Maybe it is more dangerous than I imagine. It might be far less glamorous, more banal, than I fantasise it will be. After all, it is just a city. But somehow, I feel that the monuments and streets’ deep visual familiarity will probably only make them more fantastic and strange.I think I will love it. The architecture. The energy. I can just imagine myself wandering around the brownstone streets just gawping at it all;  thinking of my friend Georgia and how her dream was to go to NYC and come across Woody Allen making a film there and how that actually happened; the sounds of early Madonna and the Kids From Fame (god I love that era!), but the current culture too – the brilliant house music of Hercules and Love Affair, the electro hip hop of Princess Nokia. I would go to the clubs, Lady Gaga’s dad’s Italian restaurant, Central Park. I would not go to the Natural History Museum, site of the ugliest film ever made, Night At The Museum, but I would go to Met and all the others, walk around, lost and anonymous, and I would excuse myself for days on end from my friends that live there and would hopefully let me stay in their apartments,  in order to sneak out by subway – again, scene to a million film scenes – to all the marvellous perfumeries.

 

 

When actually in New York City (it still seems unimaginable, somehow) I am quite sure I would find myself wincing and trying to suppress murderous thoughts at times (my idea of hell on earth is a self-important, bearded Brookyln hipster), and would certainly feel that slight intestinal tension of gun terror that always underlies everything in America  – sorry, it does – as well as all the sights that I would have to see – I have a strange desire to go to Coney Island for some reason, but I would still be inexorably drawn to spend entire afternoons just exploring the temples of perfume luxury like Aedes De Venustas, with all its expensive, cushy niche, and the CB I Hate Perfume shop, whose full line I would like to know much better; the department stores on Fifth Avenue, just, because, and also, naturally,  MiN, a perfumery that is filled to bursting with stockpiles of unfamiliar niche that I would like to become more acquainted with (are we all not unfamiliar with at least 90% of what is out there now? And despite our malaise and fatigue, are we not even now still slightly intrigued that somehow, somewhere, we might find a new scent that really does it?)

 

 

One of my friends in New York sometimes sends me samples from MiN store out of the blue (this review of tuberose perfumes, for instance, was based on one such package), but yesterday, in the thick rainy blue of my self-possessed doldrums there arrived a parcel from my perfume friend Bethan back in England who is my ultimate supplier of new samples, many of which I think I should write about on here, just because they are new and hip, but then often forget to (because the perfumes are just so very uninspiring and forgettable). We have quite similar taste though in most areas – regarding quality, in particular – so if she says that this or that line seems to be more intelligent and interesting than usual, then my ears usually prick up. And yesterday’s package really gave me a boost.

 

 

Like the aforementioned Aedes, who a while back started releasing perfumes under their own aegis and now offer eight titles, all pricey, all good quality – heavy, spicy, fresh, contemporary – MiN New York has now come out with its own line of perfumes called Scent Stories  – ‘hand-crafted visceral moments of limited production’  covering a wide variety of themes, in two volumes so far; sixteen scents in all, $240 per 75ml, that strike me as well made and thought out ( I only have Vol 2 to review, a series of five scents, four of which I will discuss here ).

 

 

Firstly, Chef’s Table. Right now, as you know, I am not exactly able to go out shopping for groceries with the state of my legs (bags that unbalance me are a big no-no), so the D is responsible for bringing back food each night even if he has been working all day and is knackered. Frazzled, actually. Last night it was pizza and salad (which suits me just fine – after eight weeks in the Japanese hospital I could just live on Italian and Indian for the rest of the entire year, or even my life,  quite happily); lots of fresh basil and tomatoes, and as that was exactly the smell of the first perfume I tried out of the bag, I suggested a scented synchronicity. He tried some on, liked it immediately, and will wear it, the kind of spiky, aromatic green that is nice after a shower when you are hot and sticky in July and August and want to wear something grounding but stimulating to the nostrils.  Basil and tomato leaf has of course been done before, in Eau De Campagne by Sisley (1974), a green and grassy vetiver scent I sometimes like to spray on in the summer time, as well as the salad-like Baime by Maitre Parfumeur; Feuilles De Tomates Poivrees by Lostmarch, and the basilique of basiliques, Virgilio by Diptqyue, from back when they still had some genuinely weird perfumes on their roster such as L’Autre and Vinaigre. Virgilio is a dastardly basil scent that is really quite hard to wear, but Chef’s Table is easier; effective as a green, herbal, minty basil concoction that keeps its leafiness throughout but remains abstract enough not to let the culinary angles become too much of a distraction. Mint, basil, a pungent clary sage and a subtle tomato leaf note form the main basis of the perfume but in very nice balance with an invisible underthrow of rose, iris, and tonka that broadens the herbaceousness and makes the scent appealing and wearable. I like it. With more stamina and wherewithall than say, Guerlain’s Herba Fresca, head-clearing and androgynous, I would definitely recommend this one for those who like a basil note in their perfume – this is like eating pesto on a picnic in the grass on a cool, summer’s evening.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ad Lumen, a soft, clear skin scent,  is an entirely different kind of fragrance: a simple, but rather haunting, aldehyde rose musk that I find to be like a more futuristic take on Brosseau’s classic Ombre Rose, just without all the powder. Bergamot, Egyptian jasmine, rose, and musks are the listed notes, and while this is certainly not complex,  it is extremely long lasting and somewhat memorable, while envincing an alluring – gentle, but obsessional – emotion. Last night, as I turned over in my bed and turned over my sheets and duvet, I could smell Ad Lumen, but not on my hand itself, almost as though it were somewhere beside me but not quite on me. Like Tom Ford’s excellent Jasmine Musk, this is one of those perfumes that while not fascinating or exacting from an artistic point of view, could, on a live person, elicit quite an adhesive reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

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Next. The go-to smell for current niche urban perfumery is, of course, the woody, the earthy, and the incensed, and it seems that about half of the Scent Stories collection comes into this category in one way or another. Whether I like it or not, this is what the people want now. As you know, I am about as likely to wear one of these harsh, bracing, Nasomatto or Byredo oudh guaiac perfumes as I am to run for office, but the two woody scents from Volume Two of this collection are quite nice, not as searing and acrid as some of these perfumes can be and are slightly more attenuated. Forever Now, a scent I quite enjoyed last night, for instance, at least in its opening and end stages – the middle I found a bit busy –  is basically a well crafted frankincense perfume that has a lovely, ethereal, aldehydic opening, and a fresh and ghostly olibanum note at heart that is pleasingly spooky and affecting. Where real frankincense oil dissipates quite quickly, the perfumer has found a way here to clad the ghost with cedarwood, ciste absolute and santalum album in a way that makes the incense more hefty but which is just a smidgen too sweet for me personally perhaps (in a similar manner to  Annick Goutal’s fine Encens Flamboyant), but which still retains the footprint of beautiful frankincense throughout, pedestalled on a gentle, animalic, base. Quite lovable.

 

 

Coda (‘rock star chic’) is a pepper/woody scent with more than a passing resemblance to Guerlain Heritage (and thus Tom Ford Noir, which was an unabashed copy of that perfume). Spicy (‘ceylan’, cinnamon bar oil and nutmeg), with a warm, ambery base and fresh top notes (cypress, eucalpytus and mint), this is one of those perfumes that quietly scream big business; a jawline for days; shoulders; dark suit. It’s actually really quite sexy, if a touch insistent and stubborn, like an ego at the bar. That does seem quite New Yorkish though to me, I must say, and thus in keeping with the brand.

 

 

 

So. New York Scent Stories. Nothing astonishing here, and at that price, not scents that I am rushing to order online. But these are perfumes that are certainly rather handsome and approachable; well made and subtly salient scents that I might go back to, which for me is saying quite a lot, as I get choosier and choosier, more olfactively pedantic, all the time. In any case, the brand strikes me as being interesting enough for me to want to at least try the rest of the line as well as the rest of the MiN store if and when I finally make it to New York one day.  With things the way that they are at the moment, I don’t think the time is especially opportune – there are other places we are planning to go to next, at Christmas and New Year, somewhere in Asia, somewhere hot and exotic, to continue our journey of human metropolises and hopefully celebrate my being able to walk about properly. New York, though, still remains at the top of the places that I know I must go to one day. I still don’t know exactly why I have never made it there yet. Timing. Other plans. Or perhaps it’s because I have been so immersed in the place, in my film and music memory and imagination for an entire lifetime, that I almost feel as though I have been there already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On a side note:   What’s your favourite city? I’d love to know.

 

I think mine is probably Tokyo. I so MISS IT.

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A GHOST OF MY FORMER SELF

 

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THE OLD AND THE NEW SANDALWOOD: : : MOLECULE 04 + ESCENTRIC 04 by ESCENTRIC MOLECULES (2017)

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To reacquaint myself with the authentic Indian Mysore sandalwood extract in order to write this piece just an hour or two ago I gave myself one tiny spray of vintage Guerlain Samsara parfum. Just a small dot or two on the top of my left hand, by far the most natural sandalwood-based perfume in my collection (the original formula contained a massive 20% pure essential oil when it debuted) and a smell that you just don’t really get to smell firsthand in perfumery anymore. Head to head with some eau de parfum on my right, at first the pure perfume seems verging on odourless – compact and demure, without all the hairspray fuss and glamour of the other concentrations, no throw. But this is a sandalwood perfume that really, really enjoys to takes its time: where the eau de parfum concentration is now a delicately balanced, if still very strong, blend of jasmine, iris and sandalwood, the parfum, on me, in its full, later stages, is just the latter. Sandalwood as I like it: creamy, dense, sun-filled, languourous – slow, like liquid gold.

The original Mysore sandalwood essential oil, extracted from trees that were overharvested to the virtual point of extinction and therefore placed under protection by the Indian government, is unlike any other perfume component, in its sheer richness and glint; its anchoring, full-bodied self-confidence, and its laconic, sexual grounding. And while this is not my favourite perfume heart or base note by any stretch – I much prefer vetiver, patchouli, even cedarwood – there is something very ‘splayed open’ and courtesanish, to me, about sandalwood (it doesn’t leave much to the imagination) – it is also very easy to imagine how the trees, the wood and its inimitable aroma could have played such an important role in South Asian culture across millennia, in the form of wooden carvings, temple structures, in euphorical aphrodisia, and as an essential and founding component of Oriental incense.

Although I am not a person who likes ‘woody’ perfumes in general – to me they can feel like being trapped in my own funeral casket, too moisture sucking and weighty, enclosing and solidifying rather than languid and free (like flowers, which are always opening and reaching out towards the light), there are, on occasion, days when I do find myself more in the mood for the more form-fitting strength of this kind of perfume, particularly in winter, when I might use a Bois De Santal body cream that Brie sent me (probably the best sandalwood I have ever smelled; so sweet and spiced and eternally lasting), layered with vintage Shiseido Feminité Du Bois parfum, a divinely beautiful perfume that to me smells as though there must be some natural sandalwood extract buried beneath all that beguiling Moroccan Atlas Cedar, the plum and the spices and niggling base notes of vanilla that linger in the most dignified and elegant manner on the skin for hours.

Other sandalwood perfumes I quite enjoy the smell of are the quite classicist Santal Noble by Maitre Parfumeur Et Gantier, Sandalo by Santa Maria Novella – which has an inspired note of thyme that cuts through the length of its duration – Narcisse Noir by Caron, which I ultimately consider a sandalwood perfume, and Serge Lutens’ collection of sandalwood perfumes, Santal Mysore, Bois De Santal and the last of his sandalwood creations, Santal Majuscule, with its calmly stupefying rose and cacao (although if I am absolutely honest I never entirely really believed in the quality of the sandalwood in that perfume; for me, the Australian or ‘East Indian sandalwood’ just never quite cuts the mustard; too thin and flat and unmysterious. Even if I do find true Mysore sandalwood to be a little too forceful and straight in its blatantly carnal message, I nevertheless still do feel that there is always, underneath, also something timeless and soulful about it that appeals to the heart muscle and soul).

When I was in my early twenties I got through several bottles of the exquisitely pleasing Sandalwood by Crabtree & Evelyn – my ultimate sandalwood and favourite of this genre for all time. If you could still buy this light, rosy, powdery, sunlit composition that was as dreamy and clean as a sunset on a beach then I most definitely would: in fact just writing about it here makes me crave the stuff quite badly – but they discontinued it a very long time ago. Does anyone reading this remember it as fondly as I do? I know I used to find that perfume so calming and soothing – soapy and talcy but also quite enveloping and sensuous… I think this is how I basically enjoy sandalwood best, in the desert-wind lightness of say, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s L’Eau du Navigateur, or else full on oriental and packed with exotica, like Lorenzo Villoresi’s Alamut, a 1001 Arabian-inspired sandalwood that is the holy grail perfume of a Japanese friend of mine and which she smells perfectly gorgeous in (she is also the person who I give all my boisé sample bottles I receive to: as a fan of as-woody-as-you-can-get perfumes like Diptyque’s very literal Asian wooden temple Tam Dao or Comme Des Garçons Kyoto as well as Ex Nihilo’s Bois d’Hiver (2015), a very woody sandalwoody/cypriol scent that she adored so much she brought herself a full bottle from Harrods that summer when the small sample bottle ran out); as the most fiercely independent person I have ever known, Junko smells brilliantly contained in this style of perfumery; a mode of fragrance I personally just can’t get with on my own skin, but which I like to experience closehand as long as I am on the other side of the table).

There is something about Javanol, the synthetic molecule now regularly used in contemporary cutting edge perfumery as a substitute (or, to be honest, now actually preferred by the majority of people to the original, natural, sandalwood oil), that is addictive, sexy and in your face. Many of the scents that Junko has in her collection – aside the aforementioned Alamut, which I do think smells best on her – do contain Javanol (or Polysantol, the creamier variant) and if I hadn’t already found immediate recipients for the two new Escentric Molecules perfume based entirely around this note that I am writing about now here and that I received in the post from a friend, I would most definitely have given them to her as well.

Javanol smells fashionable, current. Sexy, in an urban vacuum kind of way; endocrinic, a bit pheremonal; ‘woody’, but in no way connected to nature or the outdoors. There is a no-nonsense, ‘get to it’ aura around this odour molecule – which is extremely potent and which I am really very sensitive to (if I even imagine I can detect an even hint of the stuff in the base of a perfume, it is what the Americans refer to as a ‘deal breaker’ – this happened with Guerlain’s expensive Spiriteuse Double Vanille and Tonka Impériale, both of which I had full bottle of but became detached from when I realized there might be something there , just hiding in the very base tones, though in truth it could quite easily just been a tiny smidgen of my even greater bête noire, ambroxan).

What Javanol does have, though, to its credit, is a certain dryness; a ‘stripped’ quality, and a strange, oxygenated freshness that is a million miles from the sweaty, almost indecently kama sutraness of the original, and natural, odour material; a Tindr or Grindr social media network hook up down the back alley behind a club instead of an elaborately staged, contortionist’s nightmare on an ancient bed of bleeding roses leading to procreation and a dancing Bollywood finale. It is the smell of the present, of what the new sex smells like, the new genders, the sloughing off of labels and traditions, and Geza Schoen, the perfumer of the very popular Molecule line, does an interesting job here of dressing and disguising the essential element at the heart of both of these fragrances – the Javanol, here, there, always waiting to take pronouncement – and presenting two very contrasting perfumes that go very different routes until they reach similar, inevitable conclusions.

Molecule 04 is very simple and futuristic; airy, almost invisible, citrus-like, with the familiar, fat-free glimpse of ‘woodsy’ featured from beneath, like a lemon-pip trapped inside an ice cube. I immediately thought of my neighbour’s daughter Aiko, who is never averse to a gender-subverting scent or two, and sure enough, she took to it straight away. ‘Nice’, she said, as she surveyed the scent on her wrists. It smells clean, fresh, laundered but wordlessly flirtatious and aura-constructing; a masculine/feminine conglomeration that smells quite hip but understated. Intelligent, quite fashionista.

Escentric 04, a very different beast entirely, was snapped up upon smelling it, somewhat to my surprise, by my other half. He always loves the pepper notes, especially a rambunctiously bracing, nose-tingly top note of pink pepper (he is always shoving whole poivres roses into salads as well, so you crunch down on their dried, crunchy stimulation when you are expecting the smoothness of avocado), and this perfume has a very pleasing initial pepper profusion that grabbed him, when he sampled the bottle, right from the get go. The D also has an inclination for anything rhubarby; berry -like; non-banal fruity that isn’t too sweet, and the fruit-salad accord of this perfume (very, very far from the candy cane syrup of the ethymaltol ‘gourmands’; there is something quite stark and Teutonic about the way that the barbed fruit notes are handled) is a heftier, more fun-packed Javanol perfume that forms a fetching complement to the far more transparent and subtle Molecule: a big boost to the senses of hedione and floral notes (rose, osmanthus, orris) that smell as red and pink and indomitable as its packaging.

Boxy, uncluttered, and of the moment, later – quite a lot later, Escentric 04 dies down to the much more predictable, more instinctual basenotes of pure Javanol, musk, and Ambroxan. Just that smell. Potently. Essentially, therefore, what you put on, is not what you end up with here. D goes out for the evening: spruced, and sprayed happily all over with a new burst of hedgerow, colour-blocked charm. He comes home, hours later, and the whole room is quickly fit to bursting – obliviously on his part – completely, with the inglorious, but involuntarily riveting – and for me, quite conflictingly sexual – smell of pounding, synthetic woods on human flesh.

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BRACKEN by AMOUAGE (2016)

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I was never an ‘outdoors man’ even if I have always been something of a nature boy. Yet it was still strange that as a young child I somehow ended up being a cub scout. I don’t remember how or why I would have been enrolled in such an unsuitable organisation, with its toggles and songs and uniforms and ‘manly pursuits’, but I do know that I detested every moment of it except for our time in the woods and the forests when we went camping, and were forced- sorry, encouraged – to make bivouacs out of ferns and bracken and branches and twigs; tents made purely from the forest’s provision that you could hide in, close yourself off and inhale; a smell I will never forget.

It is said that the ‘fougere’ is an imaginary accord, as ferns have no smell, but this is not true. If you crush these filigreed, ornate and primeval plants between your fingers there is in fact a most distinctive, fresh, ancient, milk sap that I have always loved, the very essence of woodland and a window to another world. While I may not appreciate the beauty of mountains and grand vistas and rocks and great valleys, I have always adored the sylvan; the magic of the forest clearing and the trickling, hidden stream.

Amouage’s inquisitive and eccentric, ‘neo-hippie’ perfume from last year, Bracken, taps into this alternative, paisley green world of the great outdoors with a very original – if difficult – scent that was created to evoke memories, or at the very least, the stylings and ideals, of the flower power era: meadows of daisies, swaying pampas grasses, and love in the undergrowth – and I must say that I have never experienced anything else quite like it.

I will admit that our first impressions were poor. In fact Duncan recoiled in horror when he sprayed some on (he tried it first for me….”Oh my god…….it’s Toilet Duck!!!!”, and passing his hand over for me to peruse, before scrubbing it off at the sink, I will admit I did burst out laughing as he had nailed it completely in two simple words: suddenly, I had a flashback to the green toilet cleanser of my parent’s house when I was a boy; the urinous, central tang of chamomile and narcissus working with the citrus green, herbal notes of the top accord enough to provoke that remembrance exactly).

Trying the perfume again today, I see a more panoramic view. This is a very full, outspreading, complex, citric, green (fern accord) sharp, fruity (wild berries), floral (lily) and gently mossy composition that although quite odd, is also in another way quite beautifully harmonious. It definitely does have soul and spirit. Like Penelope Tree, the offbeat sixties model pictured here and the ‘alternative Twiggy’, it is the kind of scent that one in a hundred will fall for, but when they do, they will smell fantastic.

The evernew green of my childhood adventures – away from the tedious and moronic bondage of the cub scouts, I would spend my summer holidays playing in the woods all day long with my friends on our bikes, ‘our place’, where we made a secret cabin on an island in the middle of a bog where we could hide out from the adults; it was illegal to be there, we had cut our own hole in the wire fence of the private golf course the woods backed onto, but the heart pounding terror when someone was coming only added to the excitement and the sense of being trapped within a story; great lungfuls of searing fresh air, panting in mud and grasses, bluebells, great ferns….. none of that is really represented here (the closest I have ever come to a true ‘bracken’ like accord is perhaps English Fern by Penhaligons, a gentle, powdery scent from an entirely other era I find soothing and quite dreamy and evocative of the beautiful nature of England). But what is good about Bracken – such a risk-taking name for a perfume I think – is that for once I am smelling something bold and new, not that common these days in perfumery, whether it be niche, or otherwise, on every level from the concept and realization of the fragrance to the execution. An adventure.

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