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HELLA

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


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Hella biography
HELLA was founded by Spencer SEIM and Zach HILL in 2001, when their first band, LEGS OF EARTH, broke up. By then they were fairly well known for their crazy shows and Primus influenced sound.
HELLA debuted with "Leather Diamond", a self-released EP that was sold on their early shows. Their official debut LP, "Hold Your Horse Is", came out in 2002 on the 5 Rue Christine label. On these albums they maintained their old sound: abrasive, avant garde instrumentals.

June 17, 2003 brought a new EP, "Bitches Ain't sh*t But Good People". It features their first song with vocals, "Republic of Rough And Ready", that first appeared on the debut EP. On "BASBGP" it's titled "D. Elkan Sings Republic of R&R", referring to the band's friend Dan ELKAN, who provided vocals for the track. On this EP, HELLA also started experimenting with bass, synthesizer, and drum machine, while previously they were a purely drum/guitar duo.

Next EP, "Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass" was released on August 26, 2003, and featured an overwhelming amount of synth, drum machine, and even video game music. On Oct. 6 the same ear they released a double live album, as split with Californian band DILUTE.

Third album came out in January 2004. "The Devil Isn't Red" was a return to their classic sound, along with some later innovations, but not as experimental as the previous EP. Later in the year they released a split 7" with FOURTET and a Japanese-only release, "Acoustics", a 6 track EP. Both are fairly hard to find.

2005 brought HELLA's fourth studio album, "Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard", released on Suicide Squeeze Records. It's an experimental album similar in structure to Works by ELP; each member gets his own disk. First CD contains to Zach's crazy noise epic "Church gone wild", while the second one, "Chirpin Hard", is devoted to Spencer with his fusion, punk, math rock, and Nintendo music experimentation.

Their live band has expanded with bassist Jonathan HISCHKE and Dan ELKAN on rhytm guitar and vocals, so that they can perform "Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard" and pieces from "Total Bugs Bunny" live. They have toured with well known acts such as LES CLAYPOOL, DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, and THE MARS VOLTA. New CD/DVD EP, "Concentration Face/Homeboy" came out November 8, 2005 on the 5 Rue Christine label.

Bio written by The_Miracle



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HELLA Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy HELLA Music


Concentration Face/Homeboy (CD/DVD)Concentration Face/Homeboy (CD/DVD)
5 Rue Christine 2009
$17.99
$5.98 (used)
TripperTripper
Sargent House 2011
$11.81
$12.14 (used)
Hold Your Horse IsHold Your Horse Is
5 Rue Christine 2002
$39.99
$10.98 (used)
Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass [Vinyl]Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass [Vinyl]
Narnack Records 2003
$17.07
$28.71 (used)
Church Gone Wild/Chirpin HardChurch Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard
SUICIDE SQUEEZE 2005
$13.71
$6.27 (used)

More places to buy HELLA music online Buy HELLA & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

HELLA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

HELLA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.72 | 26 ratings
Hold Your Horse Is
2002
2.52 | 12 ratings
The Devil Isn't Red
2004
3.21 | 5 ratings
Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard
2005
3.78 | 13 ratings
There's No 666 In Outer Space
2007
3.86 | 7 ratings
Tripper
2011

HELLA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.25 | 3 ratings
Hella/Dilute: Live
2003

HELLA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

HELLA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

HELLA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Falam Dynasty
2002
3.40 | 5 ratings
Bitches Ain't Shit But Good People
2003
3.67 | 6 ratings
Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Brass
2003
4.50 | 2 ratings
Acoustics
2004
2.21 | 5 ratings
Concentration Face/Homeboy
2005

HELLA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hold Your Horse Is by HELLA album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.72 | 26 ratings

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Hold Your Horse Is
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars HELLA is the culmination of the aspirations of two high school buddies: Spencer Seim (guitar) and Zach Hill (drums) who joined forces to create a Primus inspired band called Legs in the Sacramento, CA region before jumping onto the math rock bandwagon. While the duo would expand the band sound with new members joining on future albums, on this debut HOLD YOUR HORSE IS it is merely a duo duking it out with one math rock jittery slugfest after another. Despite the ridiculous lame moniker, HELLA is the real deal as far as nerdy spazzcore math rock is concerned. Through the nine tracks that will swallow up slightly over 34 minutes of your life, they are remarkably raw yet emotionally impactful which is a huge feat for a technically driven musical group that prays to the god of abstractness.

First of all, HELLA started out purely as an instrumental act which showcases two musicians dishing out one virtuosic chop after another. In the case of HOLD YOUR HORSE IS, it is Zach Hill who steals the show with an impeccable drumming style that takes the complexity of jazz and marries it with the frenetic drive of tech death metal but delivers it in a decidedly nerdy method of brutal progressive rock. Meanwhile Spencer Seim seems to base his guitar riffs off of the percussive bombast of Hill but still manages to offer the proper guitar accompaniments which often focus on the bass strings to keep the focus on the lower registers of the scale. The tones are both clean and sort of dirty which is a rare feat in the rock world.

After a short Nintendocre 8-bit sort of opening, the track "Biblical Violence" explosively sets the pace for a relentless ride through the mathematically challenging guitar and drum workouts that permeate the entire album. It's really hard to believe that only two musicians are performing on this album and in many ways it reminds me of the Japanese band Ruins except there are no zeuhl influences on board here. "Been A Long Time Cousin" continues things with wild fret climbing guitar antics and an incessant percussive bombast that remains true to the cause. In fact nothing on this album sounds forced or out of place. It all sort of sounds natural despite the massive attacks of strings and skins.

There's sort of a shift when it comes to "Brown Metal" where Seim focuses on frenetically fast tremolo picking and Hill primarily delivers a percussive bombast on cymbals and presumably other metal objects. After a Native American call "Cafeteria Bananas" continues the math rock antics of the first part of the album but it all seems even more complex at this point and these faster, crazier and more technically infused tracks just keep ramping up until the closing "Better Get A Broom!" which is the explosive climactic ending of the buildup of speed fueled quirkiness turned up to 11 with crazy labyrinthine riffing, high octane jazz fueled drumming and the ultimate mix of two guitar styles, one on bass and one on the treble strings which makes me wonder if dude recording two separate parts or pummeling out the polyrhtyms.

Math rock is hardly for the uninitiated and requires a great sense of adventure to even explore in the first place but HELLA excels on this debut like very few do including themselves on future releases. This album just gels so nicely as each rhythmic cadence cedes into the next while the unpredictable time signatures portend an apocalyptic musical meltdown but yet somehow despite all the evidence flows along somewhat gracefully despite the hyperactive jittery instrumental antics at play. If you're new to math rock this isn't a bad place to start as the emotional connections hadn't been severed via purposefully drawn out bouts with abstractness. As energetic as extreme metal, as progressive as King Crimson on a caffeinated day and as unpredictable as Henry Cow on a bad one, HELLA is well, actually HELLA rad!

 Hold Your Horse Is by HELLA album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.72 | 26 ratings

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Hold Your Horse Is
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Math rock outfit Hella deliver a wonderful debut with Hold Your Horse Is, with swift and intricate playing which takes on intriguingly playful tones, suggesting a sense of humour behind the music and fostering an emotional connection which is often lacking in math rock. Spencer Seim's intricate guitar work sees him tying himself in riffy knots whilst Zach Hill isn't so much keeping time as going off his own flights of fancies. An extremely stripped down lineup doesn't equate this time to threadbare recording standards, with the album being recorded in crystal clarity to capture every intricacy of their playing. Highly recommended even for those who usually find math rock a bit cold and distant.
 Hold Your Horse Is by HELLA album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.72 | 26 ratings

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Hold Your Horse Is
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by JTP88

2 stars This is not for me. Sure I do find interesting the fact that this is absolutely unusual, the great ability of Zach Hill, the incredible complexity of the music and everything else, but I just can't, and I really can't, enjoy this. This lacks any kind of melody, I can't feel any intensity in the music, it's like there's a robot playing non-stop with absolutely no sense of dynamics, I can't find in the whole album one riff or passage to hold on to, it just seems nonsensical and random, and it's very disturbing.

I understand that for people who are into math rock and all its "antics", this is an absolute masterpiece, but, as a fan of progressive rock in general, I find it very hard to treat this as a good work, well, at least for me.

 Concentration Face/Homeboy by HELLA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2005
2.21 | 5 ratings

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Concentration Face/Homeboy
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by urban_legend

4 stars Homeboy is an EP and Concentration Face is a DVD of Hella live. This review is only about an EP, haven't seen DVD yet

4,2/5 Those hwo are not familiar with avant-garde music will say that this is not music as they always say about anything really experimental. But those who have already heard Hella before won't be too surprised with this album. However Homeboy really stands out from all other Hella's albums. If I would usually describe Hella's style as experimental math-rock, here it's more noise rock. They went further than usually. It's like you take everything original about Hella's music and multiple it by two. Much more complicated melodies, more instruments playing at the same time and no parts of songs are repeated. Compared to this, "Hold your horse is" seems a bit like pop rock. The sound is pretty much usual, guitar and drums dominated and a little taste of Nintendo sound in Madonna Aproaches R&B Blonde Wreckages. All in all, strong concept album, one of the best by Hella in my opinion.

Ratings for songs : 1. Gothspel For You Not Them - 3/5 2. Madonna Approaches R&B Blonde Wreckages - 5/5 3. BC But Not Before Christ - 4/5 4. If I Were In Hella I Would Eat Lick - 4/5

 Hold Your Horse Is by HELLA album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.72 | 26 ratings

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Hold Your Horse Is
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars An absurdly complicated and laborious debut, Hella nails this first one with an impressive performance on these nine tracks. No frills here at all, instead drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim do what they've been doing for years on stage. This makes 'Hold Your Horse Is' much like the old blues recording sessions where a musician would just sit down, someone would hit a microphone and what was played was what you got-- pure, authentic and undecorated.

Mostly the music is an exercise in pattern building and John Nash numeric infatuations. Sanyo keyboard bleeps make an odd start but 'Biblical Violence' gets things going, Zach Hill a ravenous force on his drums, very hungry and very focused. And Spencer Seim reflects back the mathematics no problem. The two seem to have a psychic thing and often play as if they are indeed one person... you'd have to be, as to tolerate the relentless 'Republic of Rough and Ready' and '1-800-ghostdance'. 'City Folk Sitting, Sitting' is a near-epic seven minutes and the almost catchy 'Better Get a Broom' to close. These are players that appear to have been kicked in the head by a moose and are still able to calculate the value of pi, or at least attempt it. Scratchy, abrasive and rude, unwashed and stinky but overflowing with savant gifts, Hella somehow mange to keep it all alive and moving forward almost out of desperation. A band that makes you feel embarrassed to be staring at them, and a lot of fun.

 Hella/Dilute: Live by HELLA album cover Live, 2003
3.25 | 3 ratings

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Hella/Dilute: Live
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by fungusucantkill

3 stars This is a duel live album inculding Hella and a band called Dilute. I´m not sure if Dilute was playing live because the recording quality of that cd is just fair to poor. On the live album of Hella they play some of their big hits, including Republic of Rough and Ready and Cafateria Bananas. When i first bought the cd i was unsure about what detail went on inside the cd. Theres no track listing on the back or from. Since i just saw Hella...well i ended up just grabing it anyway. Upon opening it i notice its a duel cd so i was hoping that the second band would live up to par. Dilute certainly has potential, but it needs some work. It seems sloppy and unprepared but with a little fine tuning it could be a well rounded piece of music. I was kinda let down by the fact that i bought it for $17.99 and the their were only five tracks that were on other albums that i had. All in all it was a good live performance but this isn´t something for someone who has never heard Hella. This is just an extra piece of merch.
 Concentration Face/Homeboy by HELLA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2005
2.21 | 5 ratings

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Concentration Face/Homeboy
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

1 stars My musical path owes a lot to the Belgian Mediathèque, which for a fairly modest price, allows you to take plenty of chances trying out some rather obscure stuff without having really had much info about the given "artistes". And on goes the surprises (good or bad) in the discovery path to my musical nirvana. But once in a while, you fall on an absolutely atrocious album/group that dampens your spirit, because beyond the first two minutes of initial interest because of their unusual act, some groups go on with the sole idea for a whole album and more, which you'll agree is a little to few and the understatement of the decade when looking at such an album as this one. I dare not look at this group's full output, because no doubt this duo has been at it for a while, because this release comes with a DVD of their Japan tours. which Japan is probably one of the rare country on this planet where they could actually tour (this means playing more than two concert in the same week in different cities), because only a certain kind of Japan nihilist crowd (most of them are poseurs anyway) is able to sustain more than a few minutes of this extremely apocalyptic noise (it's hard to really call it something else, even if this is also music in some ways). We are not still in full Flying Luttenbachers territory, even if the guitar-drum duo is doing its best to be as obtuse as FL, but ultimately fall very short, but not for the sake of trying. Somehow these guys think of themselves as the new Damian Ché and Edwards- Doyle, but don't come to waist level of Don Caballero.

In either case, Hella is one twisted, deranged act, which inspires me only a vague puzzlement, that will probably never go beyond the question: who the hell would really want to own such an obtuse and nihilist drivel? Apart from wanting to give yourself a hardcore stance, and opting to for a voluntarily lonely life, accompanied no doubt by semi- lethal substances abuse, no-one in their right mind would actually play this past the two initial spins: the second to confirm you actually did not miss out on something the first time around. And once you got your confirmation, you'll close the case and think that maybe the insufferable Celine Dion has found somebody more annoying than her. I'm not saying that the duo are not good musicians, but sometimes (most of the time) their aural diarrhea is getting on one's nerves. For geeks and poseurs only, really!!!

 There's No 666 In Outer Space by HELLA album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.78 | 13 ratings

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There's No 666 In Outer Space
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by chamberry
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Do you remember the duo named Hella? Remember Zach Hill and Spencer Seim making wild acrobatics with their instruments and playing their technical arse off? Of course, not many even know of what the heck I'm talking about, but for those who do: They're back with a new bag of tricks (and friends) up their sleeves. Watch and be amazed.

First and foremost I would like to point out that they aren't a duo anymore. They are now accompanied by a bass player, another guitarist and a vocalist. This may seem either intriguing or just plain wrong, but believe me that its all intriguing and so much more. The new members add a new dynamic to their sound, specially the vocalist, Aaron Ross, which is the most notable improvement. I couldn't think of a better singer that fits their style of playing. He's very energetic and charismatic (at least by listening to him). He's perfectly incorporated into their sound and that's one of the things I really enjoy about this reincarnation of the band. Don't worry about the lyrics though, try to pay attention to his way of singing rather than what he's saying.

The band doesn't suffer any changes in their sound with the new additions of members either. There's no simplicity, no chorus-verse-chorus and definitely no single. Their trademark sound is still intact and jaw dropping as it ever was. The new members of the band may have a hard time keeping up with Zach and Spencer, but in the sound of the album they aren't any slouches. Both, guitarist Josh Hill (Zach's brother) and bassist Carson McWhitrter, help to make the Hella sound richer and fuller than before while contributing with their own tricks as well.

Their songs are, as always, an unstoppable tour de force. There aren't that many places where you can take relaxing breath of fresh air and your blood will most definitely be boiling from start to finish. Their sporadic, complex and furious style is always fun and very entertaining to listen to. They do have catchy melodies in most cases and they help keep the accessibility of their sound intact. My personal favorite song on the album is "The Ungratefull Dead". It was the first song that caught my attention on the album with its overtly complex playing and strong sense of melody which is a thing not many bands managed to do, and you can rest assured that all of the song on the album has those two great qualities.

This is my first big surprise of the year and it'll definitely be one for you as well if you give them a chance. If you're a fan of complex music and energetic playing then give this guys a try, and even if you're aren't then give them a try as well. Chances are that with their nice combination of melody and complexity they'll appeal to prog fans everywhere.

 Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard by HELLA album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.21 | 5 ratings

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Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars What is Hella? Hella is a guitar/drum duo from Sacramento, California. The musicianship and the technicalities of the two individuals, Zach Hill and Spencer Seim, could stun even the most gifted musicians. But that's not what I'm going to talk about; I'm going to tell you about their most recent studio effort, the double album Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard. This double disc set, with each disc devoted to each member's compositional ideas, and the ideas presented range from wild to completely out there.

The first disc is Zach Hill's piece, simply titled Church Gone Wild, was originally intended to be a single 59 minute song, but he decided to split it into 12 different "movements" so that a person wouldn't have to listen to the entire thing if they didn't want to. Anyway, the music presented here is manic and definitely more varied than the two previous studio efforts by Hella, Hold Your Horse Is, and The Devil Isn't Red. Rather than discuss each individual track, I will describe the piece as a whole. The piece itself is very electronic; almost video game like, with many sampled voices and synthesized bits. The guitar on the track is also very well composed and the drumming is very diverse and technically intricate. Throughout the 59 minutes, there are some very very interesting sections, but there are many sections in which you might get bored. Some of this song is definitely filler, but there is enough quality in the song to make it worth the listen.

Chirpin' Hard is more like a traditional Hella album, only it has more electronic bits in the middle. The guitar is manic, the drums are manic, everything about this piece is manic. The showcase song on the album is the title of the disc itself, the 17:40 piece Chirpin' Hard. The song, though, has many silent spots (and when I mean silent, I mean silent), with many mixed noises that reminds me a bit of Frank Zappa's live experimentations on his albums like Make a Jazz Noise Here. Other than that, though, there are many enjoyable shorter pieces on this disc that should keep the listener listening to the album before switching it for something a little less manic.

While not retaining the power of Hold Your Horse Is, Church Gone Wild is an exceptional foray into some of the most insane music possibly created by two men and shows a breadth of ingenuity. If you like the previous two Hella albums, then this is a natural third choice.

 Hold Your Horse Is by HELLA album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.72 | 26 ratings

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Hold Your Horse Is
Hella Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Hella's debut album is a statement to the world of Avant-Garde music. Until I heard this album, I never thought I would listen to such manic and insanely intricate and dissonant music, but now that I have, I think I am a better person. Hold You Horse Is shows the strengths of the two members of Hella. The drumming is fast, furious, and insanely complex. The guitars are dissonant, heavy, and all over the place. The music here is essentially video game music given a rather large dosage of anabolic steroids... the result? 34 minutes of pure mayhem, excitement, chaos, and most importantly, fun music. Who can enjoy such stuff? Not everyone, that's for sure. But for those who can find enjoyment in this music, you couldn't have done any better.

The D. Elkan opens the album with some very electronic, very video game like, music, it's a very misleading introduction, because after this 43 second track, the real fun starts. Biblical Violence begins the manic drum and guitar maelstrom. The riff on this one is a great ascending single note and chord progression with some terribly precise, almost Christian Vander-like, drums in the background. It's a nice introduction to the core sound of the album. During points of this album, you may think that there is bass guitar, but the fact of the matter is, that there is no bass on this album. Been a Long Time Cousin begins with a screeching guitar riff that quickly turns to a fast paced, manically charged tune that really takes shape rather quickly. The guitar breakdown is quite stunning, with some rather impressively quick playing on the part of Spencer Seim. There's a riff in this song that is quick brilliant too, a bit uplifting if you ask me, around the 2:30 mark.

Republic of Rough and Ready has essentially become a slogan for the group nowadays. The very muddy intro is complimented by some slower sections followed by mildly faster sections. It shows that Hella can play slower stuff, but there's a necessity for there to be faster stuff in between. It's also a prime example of how intricate the guitars can get, almost Robert Fripp on Fracture intricate, and what is there not to love about that? 1-800-Ghost-Dance begins with some great riffing and drumming, one of the best things they came up with for this album. In fact, this is my favorite song on the album. I love the trills in the beginning and the dissonant chords that follow. The guitar on this track can make even the most technical of guitarists cry for their mothers.

Brown Metal begins with a muffled guitar tone that blares rapid fire notes with some banging percussion in the background. The song takes final form towards the middle, when some well timed beeps and electronic sound effects bring in the precise and well timed snare beats. The drums finally kick in and the song comes full circle as it ends at the 3:54 mark. Cafeteria Bananas begins with some whooping noises and then some manic guitar and drums (as always, if you haven't noticed by now). It doesn't really go anywhere special and it sounds no different than many of the tracks on the album.

City Folk Sitting, Sitting is the longest song on the album, at a whopping 7:06. The song has a mellower feel in the beginning when compared to the rest of the album. An interesting riff carries the song along until around the first minute, when a very bass guitar like tone-wise riff comes into play. The song then becomes interlocking sections of chaos and more melodic (if there is any true melody at all) sections. Better Get a Broom! ends the album, and it really ends the album with a bang. A droning guitar beat and some manic breakdown sections and guitar/drum interplay is what you can find here. It ends the album in a completely fitting fashion, with many twists and turns until it finally ceases from life and you're left wondering what in the hell you just listened to.

Overall, Hella's debut album is a very strong opening effort for the Sacramento, California, duo. Between this and their next studio album, The Devil Isn't Red, they released many singles. This is a great place to start if you're just getting into Hella, though their best piece was yet to come, the dual disc and ambitious/adventurous Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard. But this album is no slouch, it's loads better than their sophomore effort, as that album seems to be almost exactly the same stylistically as this one. Overall, though, I have no real gripes except some of the songs tend to drag and sound very similar to one another. In the end, I give it a 4.5/5.

Thanks to Zac M for the artist addition. and to The Bearded Bard for the last updates

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