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Mar 15

OXIDE AND NEUTRINO – “Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty)”

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#857, 6th May 2000

bound reload “Certain guys can’t face the fact of what we’ve done
Sold over a quarter of a million
Casualty went straight to number one
And still they wanna cuss come on
Oh yeah about the Casualty theme?
Well no one controls the scene
So you do what you want and you do what you like and you do what you please”
– Oxide and Neutrino, ‘Up Middle Finger’

There’s more than one way to make an 18 year old into a pop star. Craig David was a record industry dream – UK garage as a cradle for a new generation of international stars. Oxide and Neutrino represented a different future, one the biz had far less idea how to cope with in the long term. Though for now, and for the duo’s record label East West, the success of “Bound 4 Da Reload” was actually business as usual: find a hot sound in the clubs or on the pirates, license it, push it onto the charts. The main opposition to Oxide and Neutrino’s overnight success came from within garage – the pirates and the clubs in open disagreement. “Reload”, belligerent, snotty and unsophisticated, was a flashpoint record for the scene’s internal politics and anxieties.

So what was the problem? It was partly generational. A few months later, the duo scored another hit, their third: “Up Middle Finger” was a scornful, bitter attack on the garage tastemakers who’d disdained their debut. The people they had in mind were DJs in or near their thirties who helped nurture UK Garage into a take on dance music that balanced the soulful and the futurist. DJ Spoony of the Dreem Teem, for instance, whose recent elevation to Radio 1’s resident garage expert made him one of the most powerful individuals in the country’s pop scene – and who was not especially enamoured of what the younger MCs and posses (like Oxide and Neutrino’s sprawling So Solid Crew) were doing. Those kids – late teens, early 20s – were starting to turn turning their back on the smoother 2-step sound and pushing darker, harder-edged elements from hip-hop and rave further up in the music.

It’s possible to make too much of these internal divisions, to overplay how brutal a break productions like DJ Oxide’s represented. After all, you only have to go back a year or two – to 187 Lockdown’s thrilling “Gunman” – to find the mocking, timestretched samples, skeletal keyboard refrains and gunshot sounds of “Bound 4 Da Reload” on a Top 40 hit. But the split was real: there’s no sign of Oxide and Neutrino on early 2001 compilations from established garage brands like Pure Silk or Twice As Nice, and “Up Middle Finger” showed how keenly the snubs were felt.

Outside the context of garage beefs and generational splits, in the wider world of pop this blog explores, “Reload” is a shocking, Martian interruption, the charts’ transmitter suddenly hijacked. Again, you can overplay this angle. It’s not the fact that a couple of kids had made a white label and hit No.1 that surprises, or even that it’s kids from South and East London coming up via pirate radio. Tracks had been jumping from the pirate stations to white labels to the Top 5 for over a decade by this point. It’s harder to imagine an Oxide And Neutrino style success now than it was then, but that’s another issue.

But the explanations don’t account for the sound of this thing. Other white label successes tended to be tracks whose pop qualities were a little more overt. When SL2 or even early Prodigy – the obvious precursor to Oxide and Neutrino, as the duo’s “No Good 2 Me” made official – made it into the Top 10, their records worked as pop crossover. They were a dayglo filter on more subterranean activities. “Reload” has a massive gimmick for its hook – the theme tune from BBC hospital soap Casualty, which meshes with the production eerily well – but that’s all it concedes to pop. The rest of the track is raw in a way number ones very rarely are. Most chart music colours itself in, filling up its spaces to fill the airwaves better. Not so “Reload”, bumping along on deep bass that makes the track feel empty and jagged, its ideas and incidents splintered. A repeated sample from Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels blasts a hole in the song where its chorus should be – on the video, a bad-trip travelogue through a rave, kids bend double in agony when the sample hits, then look up and crack into a grin. The malign hilarity of the track summed up. “Reload” is – as much as a 250,000 selling record can be – hermetic, existing on its own terms not pop’s or even garage’s: you either know them, accept them, or turn away baffled.

Beyond its starkness, “Reload” has another weapon: its vocalist. Neutrino is not likely to feature on many lists of the great British MCs – his thick, phlegm-clotted rapping has never been especially expressive, and even within So Solid he was quickly overshadowed by other vocalists. But he’s perfect and important here, because his flow on “Reload” feels so faithful to the sound of his era’s pirate radio. Judging from surviving YouTube clips – it would be wrong to pretend I was there, listening, at the time – he has simply turned up and done exactly what he would have done over this beat, mid-show on Delight FM. It’s in the way he rolls out the MCs arsenal, from prepared bars, to scatting, to call and response, to simply marking time over the beat – “Digga digga dee, digga digga dee”. Neutrino is what turns “Reload” from a novelty into a snapshot. The only precedent I can think of for this at Number One is “The Special AKA Live!” – another short, unvarnished sketch of club music and subculture, plonked at the top of the charts with little compromise and less explanation.

And there’s something else vital about Neutrino – the fact he’s on the track at all. Oxide and Neutrino might not have been the first kids to break from Brixton bedrooms and parties into the Top Ten, but however important MCs were on radio or in the clubs during the rave era, they hardly made it onto records. With the rise of MCs on record, UK garage and its people had a voice, a host of voices. Once that door had opened it would be hard to close.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    AMZ1981 on 2 Mar 2015 #

    The problem I have with this track are the samples; the Casualty one causes it to steer close to being a novelty track while the other sample (I’ve never seen the film so obviously don’t know the context) gets on my nerves. It doesn’t help that the non sampled bits feel like add ons.

    In a parrallel universe where all other things were the same except no Toca’s Miracle this would have dethroned Craig David after a three week run and made an interesting contrast both at the time and now. Obviously these were the two faces of 2000 hip hop but in 2015 Craig David appears to be more of a forerunner of Ed Sheeran/ Sam Smith et all while Bound 4 Da Reload has more in common with what the youth of 2015 are buying. However while Fill Me In has aged surprisingly well Bound 4 Da Reload sounded horribly dated when I revisited it last night.

    Perhaps more frustratingly the samples disguised the fact that this was the first UK chart topper to reflect an underground culture that middle class rock fans (such as myself) not only did not understand but could not understand. Gang culture had visited the top spot before (Gangsta’s Paradise and Ice Ice Baby) but these were American records. Bound 4 Da Reload was British born and bred. Bound 4 Da Reload didn’t feel important at the time but it sure does now.

  2. 32
    flahr on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #31 “in 2015 Craig David appears to be more of a forerunner of Ed Sheeran/ Sam Smith et all while Bound 4 Da Reload has more in common with what the youth of 2015 are buying”

    Plz to insert my standard caution about not assuming that just because old people are uncool* does not mean young people are cool! Maybe it’s a poptimist thing but ‘the youth’ are not always bellwether arbiters of exciting newness in pop, they can be just as swayed by faux-sophistication and people looking like they’re doing things Properly as anyone else. tl;dr these two categories are in no way mutually exclusive! tr;dl do you really think 30-year-olds drive the singles charts? rl;td why are The Brits? dr;lt remember Pink Champale’s schoolgirl yelling that this was JUST ‘ORRIBLE NOISE ld;tr when your uncle first got into Pink Floyd he wasn’t your uncle’s age**

    *which I don’t dispute
    **I am my own uncle due to time-travel circumstances but due to an injunction I cannot reveal any more than that

  3. 33
    23 Daves on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #31 I’d agree with that. In fact, on relistening to this the samples to me sounded so clumsy that I was actually reminded of their overly dominant use on Justified Ancient of Mu Mu’s “1987 What The Fuck Is Going On?”
    “High praise!” you might say, but actually it’s my least favourite KLF related LP for those very reasons. Things don’t quite gel as they should, and while some people may love that basic, stripped down, DIY stickle-brick approach (and indeed, half the point of “1987” is to make the samples a heavy, deeply invasive feature) I find it too jarring to appreciate.

    Plus, the use of the “Casualty” theme feels almost too much like a back-of-the-beermat idea being acted on. A friend used to live next door to a teenage bedroom DJ not long after this period, and he would combine garage sounds with television themes in absurd late-night mixing frenzies, regardless of how well they fitted. So I suppose it reminds me too much of staying over there and hearing the “Eastenders” theme colliding with intense beats at three in the morning.

    At the time, I suppose my friend and I were too old for all this, despite only being in our mid-twenties. I’ve only ever really lived in cheap, slightly scuzzy bits of London, and during the early noughties garage followed me around, always uninvited. It either blasted out of people’s cars, or occasionally interrupted FM radio listening as a pirate signal leaked in around the edges. If forced to admit it, I suppose it felt like there was always another loud party going on which I couldn’t understand and wouldn’t have been welcome at – a constant tap on my shoulder and whisper in my ear of “You’re getting older… you’re getting older…”

    Obviously I’m less self-conscious about that kind of thing now, but I can still only shrug and say “I don’t get it – sorry”.

  4. 34
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #32 Yes, Sheeran in particular built a massive fanbase among young listeners. And last year at least I saw a lot of people who I’d have pegged as student-age trying for the Sam Smith look – that stylised 50s thing – not so much this year. Not that I’m a terribly good observer of that stuff.

    But I’d say we’re not living in a moment when there’s a particularly huge generation gap in listening. The generation gaps that matter, incidentally, are nothing to do with well- or ill-meaning olds like me – they’re ones like the split described in this entry, between (say) a 16 year old and a 28 year old, two groups that might still feel a sense of ownership over pop. Those are the ones that shift things.

  5. 35
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #31 “an underground culture that middle class rock fans (such as myself) not only did not understand but could not understand”

    I see where you’re coming from with this but I’m not sure I agree. First off, the job, or at least side effect, of music is to communicate – it may be naive and touristic of me, but while I don’t think the understanding we form of scenes and subcultures through their music is at all full, it’s not nothing.

    Second, in this particular case, “Bound 4 Da Reload” is not, and I don’t think is trying to be, an especially hardcore record. There is a lot of lairy atmosphere but the actual touchstones here are Casualty, Lock Stock and the kind of stock gun noises that were all over rave music – great call by whoever mentioned first-person shooters too. Those things – Casualty, Lock Stock and computer games – would have been stuff any 18 year old guy in 2000 knew about and recognised. A lot of middle class rock fans included. I don’t think “Bound 4 Da Reload” is taking itself much more seriously than any of its sources.

    That’s not to say Oxide and Neutrino didn’t have a lot more first-hand experience of ‘gang culture’ than you or I ever will, but that doesn’t mean any record they made necessarily reflected, or even aspired to reflect, that experience. (Or no more than hit rock’n’roll records, even at their meanest, directly reflected the sharks, criminals and mobsters at large in the 50s record biz.)

  6. 36
    mapman132 on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #34 Your generation gap analysis is definitely true I think. While Popular’s been going through the period 1995-2000 (roughly my mid-to-late 20’s), I’ve found myself re-evaluating music from that time that I originally disliked or even hated. I wonder if some people’s engagement with pop music goes roughly like this:

    Age 16: “Pop music is cool!”

    Age 28: “I can’t believe the crap kids are listening to these days! It was so much better when I was a kid.”

    Age 42: “Some pop music today is pretty good. And actually some of the stuff when I was 28 wasn’t bad either. And not everything from when I was 16 was that great.”

    This could also be connected with the cycle of decade re-evaluation discussed on previous threads.

  7. 37
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Somebody said that 26 is the age at which you reach peak pop hate (can’t remember who, or where – I started this site at 26 so obviously I wasn’t quite as sick of it all)

  8. 38
    Pink Champale on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I think that was Danny Baker. His theory was that everyone thinks that something terrible happened to pop music when they turned 26

    Though in his case it had to be said that despite being a transcendent genius as a broadcaster, he has literally the worst music taste of anyone in the world these days

  9. 39
    flahr on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #35 “I don’t think “Bound 4 Da Reload” is taking itself much more seriously than any of its sources.” and I think a recurring theme in et al on this thread (especially Pink Champale’s schoolgirl*) – how *shudder* authentic actually is this song? People have used the word ‘novelty’ – is it a record that was actually being bought by youths in the scene or was it being bought by PC’s white dorks? How cool were the pirates that played it? Again I ask these questions from the standpoint of a complete ignoramus so plz excuse if they are stupid questions. And the level of hate some people have for it suggests it can’t really have been a crossover record – but its construction makes it feel as if, in some sense, it must have been one.

    *I hope she turns out to have the twitter account @No1NotOxideAndFuckingNeutrino

  10. 40
    enitharmon on 2 Mar 2015 #

    flahr @32 just because old people are uncool* […] *which I don’t dispute

    Well you’re not coming to any of my wild parties then!

    Flippin’ kids…

  11. 41
    flahr on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Wild parties are so passé, Rosie. For today’s youth it’s all about sitting quietly in rooms reading newspapers. ;-)

  12. 42
    katstevens on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Another one from the 6th form common room stereo, this. I can’t claim to have been into garage at all but 90% of my peers were – Thursday lunchtime was Xfm day and the room cleared out compared to the rest of the week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday lunchtimes was Capital FM, Kiss FM on Tuesday). There was a ‘quiet study’ room adjoining which was anything but, and I definitely heard ‘the stupid Casualty song’ drifting in. I don’t know how much pre-release airplay Kiss gave it, but it seemed to hang around for ages before getting to #1?

    Although I didn’t like B4DR then, I LOVED Lock Stock and had sneaked into the cinema to see it underage a couple of years previous (accompanied by 1 of 7, who was very tall). I had the poster in my bedroom for ages.

  13. 43
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #39 A question that occurred to me – and someone reading this might know, or it might be something we talk about in the 2001 entries – is how closely O & N were actually part of So Solid (who did have a degree of credibility). They aren’t on “21 Bunnies”, I dunno how much they’re on the album – whether they were peripheral anyhow, or whether their pop moves tarnished their cred, or whether they were just too busy, I simply don’t know. Members of the bigger crew are on some of their other singles.

    Reading around the history of the Crew, it seems that Oxide and Neutrino were on a pirate called Supreme FM, which some So Solid members also played on, and then when So Solid decamped en masse to a residency on Delight FM, Oxide and Neutrino basically tagged along.

    Re. the lines between novelty and authentic – the younger end of the scene had an authentic appetite for novelty, probably. One of the pieces I read talked about DJ Dee Kline’s ganja-themed “I Don’t Smoke Da Reefah”, another track which cause the older garage heads to despair but which apparently would get the biggest responses at any party that played it.

  14. 44
    Inanimate Carbon God on 3 Mar 2015 #

    @37 Tom, that’s spot on with me. Though I did turn 26 in 2011, often ranked alongside 1961, 1976, 1986 and 2004 as pop’s nadir. I can’t even remember any ’11 #1s enough to wake the bunny!

  15. 45
    Mark M on 3 Mar 2015 #

    I have no memory at all about whether I liked this or found it a little crass at the time. Sounds OK to me now – nice and skeletal, and with ears that are probably still tuned in a 1985 mode, I quite like samples that literally sound dropped in.
    (‘Could everyone stop getting shot?’ is a good line. I wouldn’t have recognised it because I’ve never managed to watch the whole of a Guy Ritchie film – they just feel (and look) like bad ads to me. Reportedly he was once annoyed at being described in The Guardian (by me) as ‘risible’ – I quite enjoyed that).

  16. 46
    Chelovek na lune on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Hmm, I was 26 in 2001. Was listening mostly to Morcheeba and Francoise Hardy, as I recall, finding very little else on the pop scene of the time of interest. Although 2002 was worse (although that year’s Morcheeba album, which I picked up in Pisa, was better than the previous one)

  17. 47
    Edward Still on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Much easier to see as proto-grime than garage. It has an enjoyably sparse production with some good and some bad ideas, and its pleasing enough when I do hear it, but it’s not a tune I’d actively seek out. A low 7.

  18. 48
    James Masterton on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Bound 4 Da Reload is one of two garage No.1 hits in 2000 which had varying degrees of issues with copyright wrangles over samples.

    In this case it looked very much as if the single was going to have to come out with the central sample of the Casualty theme replayed and indeed a non-BBC worrying version had been prepared and was ready to be mastered. Virtually at the last moment the clearance came through and the single was able to be issued in the same form that had been circulating as a white label since the end of 1999.

    This is in direct contrast to a single we’ll run into later in the summer which had been promoed and was receiving extensive airplay in its original form but which at the last moment had to be issued with its core vocal re-sung by a soundalike as it had proved impossible to clear the original.

  19. 49
    Chelovek na lune on 3 Mar 2015 #

    #43 again – the borderline between novelty and authentic also brings to mind those glorious days of the Shut Up and Dance label. “£20 to get in.” “Nah mate, it was £10”, “Nah, it’s `ad a remix”. The combination of killer riff (from Prince’s “Lets Go Crazy”) and crass vocal sample (“turn off that motherfucking radio!”) really strongly recalls Rum and Black’s “Fuck The Legal Stations” (with an AA side that did something similar with Joan Armatrading’s “Love And Affection”) [the Ragga Twins were better still, of course, but just about stayed the straight side of gimmicky, as a rule] – truly it is fascinating to see a later generation of the London underground than that with which I was familiar as an East London yoof bubble up to the surface with ideas and sounds that seem rather related. Obviously back in 1990 that stuff (with acts, like Oxide and Neutrino here, with enough substance to put out albums) was just scratching the top 75, at best….

  20. 50
    Billy Hicks on 3 Mar 2015 #

    44 – Agreed with most of those years, but I won’t see my beloved 2011 included in that! I can understand the reasons (the top 40 consisting of 39 EDM-influenced pop-club bangers and Adele, week in week out) but if you’re 22 years old and living an extremely party-heavy, alcohol swigging life, it all becomes the greatest music in the world. And I was *so* tired of noughties indie-pop by then so to hear actual synths not just back in fashion, but all over the chart, was (then) a fantastic feeling. It culminated in seeing Example live in Hyde Park that summer, watching the crowd reaction to Bunny The Way You Bunnied Me and feeling like a golden age of music was back.

    I turned 26 in September 2014, but any pretence of me still being in that golden age had long-fizzled out. Two extremely overrated summer 2013 bunnies probably spelt the end of my pop imperial phase.

  21. 51
    Tommy Mack on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Baby girl Mack, as yet unnamed, born 2nd March 2015, 6lbs 11.5 oz!

    This might be my last post for a while though I’ll try to keep lurking.

    Was this reissued a couple of years later? I remembered making this my record of the week during my tenure as Head Of Music at Imperial College’s IC Radio and getting a rap on the knuckles (at our committee meeting whose attendance normally outranked our listenership I.e. Double figures) for making daytime DJs play a sweary tune. It could have been a later single though. I said I would defend it on grounds of artistic merit which was met with derision because my college mates were not from DA STREETZ like me.

  22. 52
    katstevens on 3 Mar 2015 #

    #51: awesome – congrats Tom!

  23. 53
    wichitalineman on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Re 49: SUAD didn’t bother the charts because they were selling thousands of records from the boots of their cars, which was the easiest way of circumnavigating sample clearance – the huge success of Raving I’m Raving (and the Walking In Memphis lift) sank the label. Also loved by kids, looked down on by ‘heads’.

    Re Craig David anticipating Sam Smith/Ed Sheeran: The real precursor won’t bother us here, thankfully, but it was David Gray. I was listening to Fresh Hits 2000 at the weekend and Babylon stood out like a sore thumb. Bloke-next-door non-starry name? Check. Emotional muppet voice? Check. Dressing down in a grey t-shirt? Check. Worthy, ethos of hard work, illusion of quality… it had the lot – Babylon was the (George Ezra) Budapest of its day.

  24. 54
    Tom on 3 Mar 2015 #

    #51 It’s the Arrival of the Mack (yes it is) – congratulations!

    #53 On the first annual pub crawl that Christmas we found his album on a jukebox. My brother put on – having never heard it – his cover of “Say Hello Wave Goodbye” on the grounds that “you can’t mess that song up”. Oh, but you can. You really, really can.

    #50 Billy I really hope you’re still commenting when we get to 2010/11 – I loathed the 00s indie with a passion but was frustrated by the EDM-pop afterwards, but of course by then I was a dad of 2 and approaching 40, so not in any position to appreciate it on its own terms. Just like on the trance stuff, your perspective will be really valuable!

  25. 55
    Tom on 3 Mar 2015 #

    David Gray is also the only “pop” “star” I have ever seen live before they were famous – he supported The Auteurs at a gig they did in Oxford in 1993 or so. He was – and this will surprise you – rather boring.

  26. 56
    will on 3 Mar 2015 #

    For a short while I ran a pop-orientated club in Bristol with a long time music buddy of mine. I knew our partnership was over when he started declaring an admiration for David Gray.

    By the way, are O&N the only side project (if you can call them that) to reach Number One ahead of their mother ship?

  27. 57
    Tommy Mack on 3 Mar 2015 #

    #55. I heard David Gray’s SHWG cover a couple of weeks back as a related video to the original (which was itself I think a video linked as related to Fade To Grey). He sounds like someone doing an impression of Bob Dylan having had Dylan described to him by someone else who heard him once, briefly, while drunk.

    One of the guys who bollocked me for playlisting B4DR was a big trance fan who swore David Gray and Coldbunny were great comedown music. It was something upon which we could never agree!

    So much for my hiatus…

  28. 58
    AMZ1981 on 3 Mar 2015 #

    #53 and my suggestion that Craig David anticipated Sheeran/ Smith. I wasn’t thinking quite so much stylistically but more in terms of how they were promoted and received. Like Sam Smith (and okay a lot of others before and inbetween) he first attracted notice as a featured vocalist. I don’t think they had the The BBC Sound Of in 2000 but I suspect Craig David would have been near the top of such a list. Also like Sheeran and Smith he’s a politely spoken critics darling and the smooth intelligent RnB he produced has arguably been absorbed into the mainstream.

    It’s a shame we don’t get to discuss David Gray at any point, not so much for his music but the fact that he seemed to be selling very much to the post Britpop audience (this included me at the time). It’s quite depressing now that we allowed ourselves to be taken in by such drab stuff, for me this includes the biggest new band of the year (bunnied but not for a while yet and who I’ve always considered overrated myself) and it’s no wonder RnB stole a march. To be fair to David Gray White Ladder seemed to get blunted when it ceased to be a word of mouth success and became the album everybody was buying; it meant that bland filler like This Year’s Love and Sail Away got the attention over more complex tracks like Nightblindness and My Oh My. It’s too easily forgotten that he had to remortgage his house to make White Ladder, good for him was the reaction at the time. Sheeran and Smith are indeed cultural descendants of his but Craig David is in there too.

    Oxide and Neutrino managed a reasonable run of follow ups which seemed to get progressively grittier – had the follow up bombed at forty something then Bound 4 Da Reload would have felt more like a novelty single. In post #31 I should perhaps have said that IT SEEMS to have more in common with what the youth of 2000 are buying (and I appreciate that this was a bit of a sweeping statement). It’s hardly a full on gangsta record but it does seem quite different to any number one single that came before.

  29. 59
    wichitalineman on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Re 57: Impressive dedication to the O&N cause! And congratulations!

    Re 58: “It’s too easily forgotten that he had to remortgage his house to make White Ladder, good for him was the reaction at the time.” No! That’s what I remember only too well – hard working, struggled for years, dedicated = deserves his success. Likewise, people I really trusted swallowed this line. I can’t think of anything more un-pop.

    Good call on Craig David as featured artist, definitely a harbinger in that respect.

  30. 60
    enitharmon on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Congratulations, that Tommy Mack! And Mummy Mack of course, and Baby Mack!

    But Tommy, you can’t leave us now. You’ll have plenty of waking time in the wee small hours to join us. ;)

    It occurs to me that 26 was the age I was when I found myself with a baby in tow (and the number one, Geno, is and was a cracker). I had a theory once that 26 is the age to which we all aspire throughout our lives. It began when I told a 16-year-old on a BBS (yes, I’m that old!) who said he wished he was 26 that he always would.

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