This week, The Breakdown finally returns with a giant-size deep dive into the complicated history of breakcore and try to make sense of it in an era where the term means less than ever.

Content Warning: This article discusses a style of music primarily known for its association with themes of CSA; there is no in-depth discussion of this aspect, and specific references are mostly avoided apart from utilizing the genre's most widely understood name.

I’m not sure I know what breakcore is.

I mean, I have a general idea, the same way a child can vaguely tell you what a star is, but in 2024 I’m not sure I could tell you what links together all the different ways people throw around the term “breakcore” to describe music. Not that it was ever really a simple task - breakcore had already splintered by the time most people first heard the term - but the breadth of meaning it encompasses has ballooned in recent years. Nowadays, it seems like anything with something resembling a breakbeat can be breakcore, from classic jungle to sufficiently abstract IDM that may not even have actual breaks.

And, I mean, obviously not every random YouTube playlist or TikTok comment that calls something breakcore because it’s got an amen is worth anything. People will call anything anything and if your goal is to explore this terminology as a matter of vaguely ethnographic study then you’re gonna care a lot more about the cultural trends you can identify than the full extent of a word’s (mis)usage. But that still begs the question: what is breakcore? What does it mean? Why has that meaning changed so much over time? I’ve been putting off writing this article for a while because answering those questions seemed like too monumental a task to take on, but I think now is the time to take a deep dive into the breakcore family tree and map out my findings from years of listening to, researching, and organizing this music in the hopes that, just maybe, we can discern some deeper meaning.

The Three Branch System

Breakcore’s main conceit as a style has changed a lot over the course of the last 30 years, so part of coherently breaking it down into bite-size chunks in order to track its development necessarily is going to involve creating larger categories representing the different overarching influences and intents that people have approached it with across that time. With that in mind, I’ve chunked breakcore out into three major categories which I like to call the Three Branches, representing three major approaches to what breakcore means and what it’s trying to do.


Time Period: Mid 1990s
Origins/Influences: Breakbeat Hardcore, Jungle, Noise, Drum & Bass, Digital Hardcore
Well Known Artists: Alec Empire, Christoph De Babalon, Venetian Snares (Early), Emma Essex, goreshit, Passenger of Shit, Shizuo, Shitmat, Bong-Ra

In its original form, breakcore was essentially punk breakbeat hardcore. Not in the literal sense of sampling from punk music or featuring punk musical elements that digital hardcore utilized, though as adjacent developments plenty of music fell into both styles, but in the sense that it was a rowdier, intentionally dumber take on the sound that pushed elements such as its chopped up hip hop breaks and emphasis on sampling to an intentionally simplified extreme. I talked at length about the origins of breakcore and the break-it-yourself ethos of the early scene in the first ever edition of this column, so I won’t go too in-depth on the background behind this branch, but the important thing is that breakcore’s original style was steeped in the culture and sounds of early hardcore dance music, and this branch continues its traditions of irreverent, flagrant sampling and hard-nosed beatwork with roots in various hardcore styles. I’m the exact kind of petty person who would soft-gatekeep this as the “real” breakcore sound in comparison to the more popular and critically-acclaimed music that arose from later developments, and in that spirit I’ve elected to just call this stuff plain “breakcore” with no qualifier. Take THAT, YouTube commenters!


Time Period: Late 1990s/Early 2000s
Origins/Influences: IDM, Drill & Bass, Glitch, Flashcore
Well Known Artists: Venetian Snares, goreshit, Igorrr, Lauren Bousfeld, The Flashbulb, Drumcorps, Ruby My Dear

Probably the best-known and most influential branch of breakcore, developing in the late 1990s/early 2000s as a more complex, leftfield sound that had more to do with IDM than it did hardcore. Post-Breakcore is one of several sounds to emerge from mixing the same kind of anti-consumer electronic that breakcore was all about when it started with experimental textures and head-whirling composition; much like glitch, it rose to prominence as tongue-in-cheek “trash art”, and a lot of its big early artists were either directly influenced by glitch (Venetian Snares, the genre’s progenitor and reigning most iconic artist) or emerged directly from that area (Datach’i, Terminal 11). In the same sense, post-breakcore followed the glitch model of gradually departing from that aspect of its aesthetics (both musical and in general) and becoming moreso a moderately quirky form of compositionally complex “art electronic.” To return to the point about breakcore’s shifting intent, post-breakcore began as a style that departed from the strict hardcore roots and textures of breakcore while retaining the same spirit of listener-averse abrasion, but over time that concept of break-based music that challenges the listener and their conventions was shifted towards something more purely based in complexity.

Ethereal Breakcore

Time Period: Late 2010s/Early 2020s
Origins/Influences: Jungle, Liquid Drum & Bass, Hardcore Breaks, Ambient, Atmospheric Drum & Bass
Well Known Artists: sewerslvt, Rory in early 20s, DJ Kuroneko, MANAPOOL, C!erra My$t, ryanxb100

If post-breakcore staked its claim as a style on the idea that breakcore can be breakcore by being complicated and hard to follow, ethereal breakcore represents the next part of the cycle of the genre’s ethos being challenged. The most recent and controversial branch of breakcore, ethereal breakcore ditches the inherent complexity of the post-breakcore sound while appropriating the most atmospheric and euphoric textures it explored. Breakcore has been a very internet-friendly genre for much of its existence but ethereal breakcore is truly the most “online” form of breakcore, in that it exists as a direct product of sites like YouTube and Bandcamp. In a lot of ways, ethereal breakcore kinda breaks the whole model of what breakcore is. It’s sometimes noisy but rarely overtly abrasive, and occasionally complex but often very simple. A throughline of higher tempos and more complicated drum patterns is only sometimes maintained; really, ethereal breakcore lives in the margins of relativity. It’s not as fast or complicated as post-breakcore and not as loud as classic breakcore, but still exists in a hyperactive state compared to the drum & bass and breakbeat music it appropriates elements of.

Plotting these three overarching styles out, we now have an idea of the broadest strokes breakcore operates in: the simplistic and hardcore-rooted classic style, the artsy and leftfield post-breakcore style, and the atmospheric and nostalgic ethereal breakcore style.

If all were simple and pleasant, we would be done now. We’ve traced 30 years of breakcore history, identified three major trends with their own interpretation of what breakcore means, and organized them into broad categories that most breakcore can be plotted within. Unfortunately, humans are wont to create their own interpretations of any sound and constantly explore new artistic territory, which is great for art but very annoying for us as amateur historians as it means we need to take a closer look at these branches and figure out how to categorize all the various sub-sub-genres that have popped up since then. We’ll go through each of them one at a time and give a brief overview of what their deal is.

One overarching theme with the various subsets of these branches is that these often do not represent wholly new approaches but rather different influences mixed in; the vast majority of breakcore’s substyles have more to do with what is sampled or what other elements are brought to the table than anything that really switches up the paradigm.


Bassy Breakcore

Time Period: Mid 1990s
Origins/Influences: Darkside Hardcore, Jungle
Well Known Artists: Alec Empire, Sonic Subjunkies

A term I coined for an extremely short-lived sound that existed at the very start of breakcore, retaining a slower tempo and breakbeat hardcore synthwork to a degree not seen in later classic breakcore. This is a rudimentary sound that is only slightly differentiated from the music it came from but has to be given credit for, y’know, pioneering breakcore as a whole. I find this stuff really charming and fun but I can see why a lot of people find it excessively primitive. Bassy breakcore was pretty much dead by 1996 and rarely sees revival.

Raggacore (Type 1)

Time Period: Late 1990s
Origins/Influences: Bassy Breakcore, Ragga Jungle
Well Known Artists: Bong-Ra, Enduser, Shitmat, Venetian Snares, FFF

Raggacore is a really weird and interesting style in that it drastically changed sound a few years into its existence - this right here is the original sound, which can basically be seen as ragga jungle revival, applying ragga vocal samples and sound effects to the classic 90s breakcore sound. It’s also probably the best throughline linking the synths of bassy breakcore to more modern bass-heavy breakcore, which makes it a big historical curiosity. The original raggacore style is the little sound that could, superseded by the more contemporary sound only a few years into its existence and yet still the main thing people think of when they hear “raggacore” and continually revived in small doses.

Raggacore (Type 2)

Time Period: Early 2000s
Origins/Influences: Raggacore (Type 1), Dancehall
Well Known Artists: DJ Scud, Emma Essex, Cardopusher, Aaron Spectre

I’ve chosen to split it up here into these two different types but it’s worth noting that people generally see raggacore as one big cohesive genre. This is the latter, more influential style, exchanging the jungle roots of raggacore’s original sound for dancehall-influenced rhythms and basslines. The lifeblood of this sound is the tresillo drum grooves, traditionally orchestrated through two fat kicks followed by a snare while the breaks go crazy underneath. Pair it with manic samples and either droning bass or melodic dancehall-style basslines. People overlook just how influential this style was, forming the rhythmic basis for a lot of late 2000s breakcore while itself remaining somewhat lowkey.


Time Period: Early 2000s
Origins/Influences: Mashup, Plunderphonics, Nightcore, YTP
Well Known Artists: Shitmat, goreshit, Emma Essex, Cardopusher, Reizoko Cj, Ayane Fukumi, Sickboy

Probably the most significant actual development within this branch since its inception, expanding on the sampling basis of classic breakcore by pushing it into a more overarchingly prominent position while also shifting the material and methods from the rudimentary, cheeky hip hop-style sampling you’d find in earlier breakbeat hardcore towards the kind of (post-)ironic wholesale sampling of recognizable material - pop, hip hop, video game music, anything that can be turned into a slurry of high energy sludge forcibly piped through your ears. Mashcore is one of the most diverse breakcore substyles, ranging from ridiculously stupid to stupidly ridiculous and everything in between while lending itself to outside influences plentifully; for this reason, basically everything that came after draws from it in some regard - whether that be the sampling itself or more oblique elements such as its affinity for throwing four on the floor eurocore kick patterns under the breaks - and it’ll probably exist forever just based on that flexibility and the basic premise that spamming breaks over well known songs is simple and fun to listen to.


Time Period: Mid 2000s
Origins/Influences: Mashcore, Chiptune
Well Known Artists: Sabrepulse, Saskrotch, Aquellex

An artifact of breakcore’s initial period of internet dominance where anyone sufficiently online enough was probably listening to it but that "sufficiently online" demographic was mostly weird hobbyists. Chipbreak is a strange, kinda raw sound that really reflects that it was pioneered in a time when chiptune was weird dudes with old computers - the influence of chiptune would be retained in later breakcore but it never quite sounded the same once fake chiptune VSTs became easily accessible and you could throw those leads in with other synths easily.


Time Period: Mid 2000s
Origins/Influences: Mashcore, Nightcore, Nerdcore Techno
Well Known Artists: goreshit, JAPSHITFUN, Rory in early 20s, Lolishit, CDR, Reizoku Cj, maedasalt

I don’t fuck with the aesthetics of this genre any more than you do (and I especially wish that a better name had caught on so that the artists who work in this area but avoid the worst aspects of its visual style and naming conventions wouldn’t still be saddled with that connection) but, unfortunately, an exploration of breakcore’s history and styles is incomplete without one of its most prolific and established niches. Actually, if you can look past the squicky elements of the style - and I know that’s a massive if - it’s kinda cool how lolicore embraces a very oldschool DIY approach to breakcore, albeit without the breakbeat hardcore elements and with a preoccupation with anime and Japanese music samples (hence the genre’s much less cringey but also somehow even worse by virtue of total genericness “animecore” moniker). I don’t know that it gets any more braindead than the mashcore it emerged from does - actually, I’m not really sure there’s anything that separates this from mashcore beyond a bad aesthetic concept and more particular sampling requirements - but that almost Digital Hardcore Recordings-esque “fuck the listener and fuck overthinking things” spirit is more widespread here, especially in the equally but more subtly cursed kusoikore offshoot that we’ll talk about later. Conclusion: I wish to stop talking about this now, thanks.


Time Period: Mid 2000s
Origins/Influences: Mashcore, Raggacore, Pop Punk, Skate Punk, Melodic Hardcore
Well Known Artists: Aaron Spectre. That’s It.

An unapologetically fake “genre” that everyone kinda pretends is real even though the only music anyone knows in this style is Aaron Spectre (AKA Drumcorps)’s classic Amen, Punk EP. The reason breakcore vets will claim this is a real thing even though basically none of it exists is that the concept is so simple and obvious that it feels like there should be tons of it: mashcore, but the samples are all classic pop punk/skate punk/hardcore songs. If you really really dive into this stuff you can make the argument that maybe it influenced some digital hardcore revival-revival stuff like Emma Essex’s KitCaliber project, or you can point to that one 2a03fox EP that confidently but falsely claims that “Amenpunks [sic] Not Dead.” But I know the truth, and the truth is that even though all dozen or so tracks in this style whip ass, there’s still only a dozen of them.


Time Period: Mid/Late 2000s
Origins/Influences: Breakbeat Hardcore, Mashcore
Well Known Artists: Shitmat, Graz, Venetian Snares, goreshit, FFF, Fat Frumos

Kind of a mystery that paradoxically has been made by a whole bunch of the best known 2000s breakcore artists while also being obscure and musically indistinct. Ravecore continues the chain of dead simple concepts by being another “what if breakcore but with this outside influence” genre, only in this case it’s breakbeat hardcore. Which may sound confusing and redundant to you, since that’s also the concept of bassy breakcore and early breakcore as a whole, but in this case it’s actually a pretty distinct sound, drawing a lot more from the rave stabby, bright and colorful end of breakbeat hardcore and even sometimes later “happy breakbeat” music while retaining the general faster and cleaner 2000s breakcore sound. Most of the people making this came from mashcore, meaning that the term ravecore is now eternally embroiled in an exhausting cycle of being confused with mashcore as well as not-actually-breakcore mashcore spinoff style dancecore, all of which are used to describe eachother and treated as the same thing despite being three completely separate sounds. Unlike the other mashcore derivates, though, this doesn’t actually retain any of its elements on a universal level, and you can make the argument it was popularized by Venetian Snares anyways (you just have to ignore that Bong-Ra was making it before him) so it kinda exists as its own thing off in the periphery of breakcore. This stuff kinda still exists by virtue of the hardcore breaks glowup of the 2010s but most of the dudes who used to make it have moved on to other stuff or aren’t really active anymore.

Happy Breakcore

Time Period: Late 2000s
Origins/Influences: Mashcore, Raggacore, Happy Hardcore, Dancefloor Drum & Bass, Chipbreak
Well Known Artists: Emma Essex, Trent Sinclaire, 4lung, Gynx, MAILPUP, Shoebill, POSCA VON GABBA

The most radical transformation breakcore’s original branch ever went through and also the most unique of the many mashcore derivates, happy breakcore is a small but very notable subset of YouTube-era breakcore that seems like kind of a mash of influences on the surface but has a lot of weird shit going on underneath. The general conceit of happy breakcore is that it’s, well, happy. Specifically, it’s more explicitly happy hardcore-influenced than most breakcore, rejecting the aggression of other styles in favor of a bright, goofy sound. The way this is reached is pretty complex - happy breakcore mostly started out as a strain of mashcore with a particular affinity for the rhythms and prominent basslines of the dancehall side of raggacore. Over time, the melodies got more prominent, with retuned vocal samples and even original vocals becoming common, and the synths saw more emphasis with the incorporation of the modulating reese basslines and saw leads of dancefloor drum & bass. This style was particularly popular around 2009-2011 with the breakout YouTube success of Emma Essex’s Renard alias; as a result, this is pretty much exclusively a furry musician style, and most artists who make it even now utilize similar aesthetics and label structures.


Time Period: Late 2000s
Origins/Influences: Lolicore, Noise
Well Known Artists: CDR, THM, GulloHack, Himeko Katagiri, ok cheez

True proof that time is a flat circle, as after 15 years of becoming more complex and production oriented breakcore finally looped back around to the simplest, noisiest, dumbest possible music. Kusoikore is fundamentally kinda just lolicore but intentionally shitty, and was a pet style of CDR, who both coined the term and popularized it with a series of solo releases in the late-2010s, though you can trace the sound itself back to the 2000s. Believe it or not, this actually used to be seen as one of the more “respectable” forms of lolicore - nowadays, though, it’s kinda culturally dead after CDR got outed as a creep and nearly everyone else either quit making this stuff or developed the same awful reputation as people in the main scene.



Time Period: Early 2000s
Origins/Influences: Glitch
Well Known Artists: Venetian Snares, Bogdan Raczynski, Lauren Bousfeld, Datach’i, Terminal 11, The Flashbulb, Reizoko Cj

This can kinda be seen as the mashcore of post-breakcore, as it takes an obvious aspect of the sound and expands it into a more prominent and extreme element and serves as the jumping off point for pretty much every other substyle. Glitchcore sounds exactly like its name suggests: post-breakcore that is even twitchier and more abstract with the glitch influences dialed to 11. The line between this and regular post-breakcore can be somewhat murky but a general rule of thumb is that if it devolves into sounds that are difficult to even identify as breaks at some point then it’s probably glitchcore. This stuff can actually get really abrasive, something that’s true of post-breakcore as a whole but particularly prominent within the glitchcore paradigm. This isn’t actually that surprising if you’ve heard an album like Datach’i’s Mmale and Ffemale that explores similar ground in a more pure glitch-rooted style, but it illustrates one of the main misconceptions people have about breakcore where they confuse general abrasion and density for hardcore influence and use that to loop music into the umbrella and especially this style when it lacks any real breakcore connection. 

Classical Breakcore

Time Period: Mid 2000s
Origins/Influences: Glitchcore, Modern Classical, Contemporary Classical, Romanticism, Classical Classical, Baroque Classical, You Get The Idea
Well Known Artists: Venetian Snares, Igorrr, The Flashbulb

Blame Venetian Snares for this one. Technically this style was done half a decade earlier on a 12” by Polish duo Ślepcy, but the reality is that every single release in this style other than that is built on the shoulders of Vsnares’s 2005 album Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, where he took the increasingly atmospheric post-breakcore sound he had spent years cultivating and found the perfect textural backdrop to make his most emotive record yet by fusing it with the textures of modernist and romantic classical. In the time since we’ve gotten a whole host of imitators, most of whom did it less well and less artfully, but the cheeky baroque and classical-rooted sound Igorrr innovated deserves note not only because his work is awesome and Hallelujah is the only album to ever really stand up to Rossz’s quality but because most of this stuff is incredibly dreary and it’s nice to hear something that isn’t just cinematic string quartet music with breaks. Yes, I know the example up there is literally just that, but it’s different because, uh, I like that track.


Time Period: Late 2010s
Origins/Influences: Glitchcore, Footwork, Jungle Juke
Well Known Artists: pencil

The perfect level of microgenre where it’s so small you can’t really call it a full-fledged style but there’s enough of it that if you enjoy it you won’t get tired of the material in like one day. Breakcore and footwork are in some ways soulmates, both being rooted on some level in a strong sampling tradition and built on a rhythmic concept that is intentionally off-kilter, so this fusion actually make a lot of sense. The meat and potatoes of this style are the two excellent Footcore Compilation records from Dochakuso Records, which explore a surprising stylistic range within the archetype. This is pencil’s baby style and his 2020 Do You Know Footcore? EP is by far the most well known non-compilation record focusing on this style.


Time Period: Late 2000s
Origins/Influences: Glitchcore, Cybergrind
Well Known Artists: Drumcorps, Igorrr, Mulk

The most directly relevant to this site since it comprises a small but influential chunk of the cybergrind umbrella. I’m tentatively placing this under post-breakcore because pretty much everyone who does it makes goofy neo-glitchcore ADHD music that often kinda pushes the boundaries of breakcore, but I’m sure you could theoretically link in the work of a band like Nuclear Dildo Squad that is a lot less post-breakcore-rooted if you really wanted to. The core sound that people expect, though, is very much in that 2000s post-breakcore style even if the aggressiveness of its execution and the hardcore elements it picks up from cybergrind sometimes makes that less obvious.

I’ve excluded one major style, depressive breakcore, from this section because it serves as an even more important part of ethereal breakcore and thus deserves to be over in that section of the article - for organizational purposes though, it’s part of both post-breakcore and ethereal breakcore.

Ethereal Breakcore

Depressive Breakcore

Time Period: Mid 2010s
Origins/Influences: Ambient, Classical Breakcore
Well Known Artists: goreshit, Waqs, i want to be dead, Rory in early 20s

The granddaddy of the ethereal breakcore sound - not necessarily the first time that anyone decided to put ambient pads under their breakcore, but there’s just something different about the way that cats like goreshit and Waqs were doing it. Technically this is a lolicore offshoot, though you would never know it since it doesn’t sound like lolicore and the only aesthetic similarities are a general anime veneer and a sense of edginess (which is a running theme in breakcore anyways so you can’t really blame this genre, though your appreciation of its emotional themes may be neutered by how exaggerated its depiction of depression is). Depressive breakcore can be identified against the rest of the ethereal breakcore backdrop by retaining that post-breakcore complexity and leftfield electronic influence - you can even draw a direct line from the depressive classical breakcore of the mid-to-late 2000s to the slightly more ambient-influenced depressive classical breakcore goreshit was making in the early 2010s. Brighten this stuff up and make it a bit less drill & bass-y and you pretty much just have normal ethereal breakcore.


Time Period: Early 2020s
Origins/Influences: Depressive Breakcore, Liquid Drum & Bass, Ambient, Jungle
Well Known Artists: sewerslvt, ryanxb100, DJ KURONEKO, C!erra My$t, yve smile gang, Xxtarlit⚸, MANAPOOL, Turqoisedeath

The hot new style on the block, this is breakcore’s newest major frontier and most controversial style (which is saying something). I coined this back in 2020, though a lot of people use the term glitchbreak (for some reason, I don’t really get the line of logic) or even refer to this stuff as just depressive breakcore, which makes sense as this is fundamentally a development of that. This is The sewerslvt Genre, which means everyone basically just does her style - liquid drum & bass beats beefed up with higher tempos and crunchy breakcore textures, dense ambient soundscapes, blown out bass. The breakcore veneer is a little thin here but packs a punch - that said, a lot of producers kinda stumbled on this by accident, and I recommend checking out KAS:ST’s Astral Talk and somasis’s PANIC!! (and then listen to the whole album, because it’s one of the greatest ever made) for interesting alternate timelines where this sound springs up without the depressive breakcore background.

And with that concludes ethereal breakcore, the smallest of the branches - which is understandable, since it’s the newest, but also reflects how ethereal breakcore is somewhat limited in comparison to the others as far as mutability since it’s a lot more dependent on specific textures and influences compared to the broad range of sounds classic breakcore and post-breakcore can explore while keeping their concepts intact. We can now plot everything on one big chart and get an idea of the whole breakcore landscape:

What does this tell us? Honestly, I’m not sure. I think the most obvious conclusion you can make is that breakcore producers love being eclectic but rarely like to mess with the core formula, which is why so many of these substyles are relatively surface level variations on a more substantial core sound. There’s only ever been a few times that the foundation of breakcore has really been shaken up: the split between classic breakcore and post-breakcore, the innovation of mashcore and then later happy breakcore, and now the simplification of breakcore in the ethereal era. It’s tempting to find some kind of secret musical element that links all these branches together, but breakcore has shifted so much over time that the only real consistent factor linking all this music is the usage of chopped breaks as a vector for exploring creativity and making music that goes beyond the limitations of more conventional break-based EDM.

I hope that if you take one thing away from this exercise it’s that “real breakcore” probably isn’t a meaningful thing. I mean, obviously you need to draw lines somewhere in order to make it possible to actually talk about breakcore as a cultural object. I’m not advocating that we all need to start calling any random music with chopped breaks breakcore. But people love to draw their lines in a way that excludes the music they don’t like, especially when it comes to newer stuff like ethereal breakcore. No simpler than early breakcore or less abrasive than the mellower end of post-breakcore, this music still offends breakcore fans mortally because the people who make and listen to it are young and don’t know the history yet - something especially funny since a lot of these gatekeepers don’t know anything about breakcore pre-2000 themselves. The truth is that we could all do with exploring beyond our boundaries and knowing our history more. Now that you have a handy guide to pretty much every major or not-so-major breakcore niche across the last 30 years of its existence, maybe it’s the perfect time to listen to something you normally wouldn’t and learn to enjoy it on its own merits. That’s the spirit of rave, innit?

It's been a while, hasn't it? My name is Georgia and The Breakdown is my biweekly (usually) column about the history, culture, and sound of breakcore, hardcore electronic, and jungle. I wanted to do something special to bring it back after taking a few weeks off to deal with my life collapsing, so I finally put together a guide I've been conceptualizing since before I started writing this column. This is, for the most part, a one woman show, so I appreciate any support. If you're new here and enjoyed this, check out the previous editions and my non-Breakdown writing here on the Microdose site. The Breakdown will be returning to a biweekly publishing schedule. Cheers!

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