Irma Vep – No Handshake Blues – Album Review
Due 13th January 2017 via Faux Discx & Comfortable on a Tightrope
Edwin Stevens is a musician from Manchester-via-North Wales. He has played in many bands over the years such as Sex Hands, Klaus Kinski and Yerba Mansa. He now writes and records under the name of Irma Vep.
This album opens with a blast in the form of ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done’. Screeching guitars, muffled vocals and drums introduce this 11 minute epic, which is the undoubted highlight of the album. There are lulls and moments where it almost collapses in upon itself, before changing to a racing tempo to finish.
After such a height, there is only one direction the album can go. That’s not to say that what follows is anticlimactic, it just never reaches these peaks, with a variety of songs ranging in lengths of 1:40 (Hey, You!) to 6:31 (The Moaning Song). ‘It Runs Slows’ does what it says on the tin, with a restrained guitar and strings track. ‘No Handshake Blues’ starts with some guitar noodling that you keep expecting to turn into something more but never really does. ‘The Moaning Song’ features a pained howl along with fast guitar. The Armadillo Man is one of the most straight forward songs, with clarity on the vocals and lyrics. ‘You Know I’ve Been Ill’ is the biggest sounding track on the album, with guitars, drums and strings making a fuller sound than what went before. ‘Still Sorry’ finishes the album with a droning organ along with a catchy guitar line, raising to a dramatic finale.
‘The people behind you are pulling faces,
Everyone, everyone, everyone, what have I done’ – The Armadillo Man
The vocals are a constant throughout, distant and high on reverb, making the lyrics difficult to comprehend. The guitars are the backbone of most of the songs and are played fast and loose. There are elements of bands such as the Velvet Underground and more recently Micah P Hinson or Smog. The arrangements are generally sparse and the production is dirty, embracing the murkier end of the spectrum. Edwin is very much part of Manchester’s flourishing DIY scene, a collective that promises much for the future. The album will appeal to fans of lo-fi ramblings, with the undoubted highlight the opening track.
1. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
2. It Runs Slow
4. No Handshake Blues
5. Hey, You!
6. The Moaning Song
7. Armadillo Man
8. I Want To Be Degraded
9. You Know I’ve Been Ill
10. Still Sorry