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Review: Irma Vep – No Handshake Blues

Irma Vep - Cone Magazine

Welsh native and Manchester DIY veteran Irma Vep delivers a colourful spread of psychedelic-folk for his new album, No Handshake Blues.

Opening with eleven minutes of indulgent and enduring warped, hazy psychedelia by way of ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done’, Irma Vep’s latest full length offering bears a distinctly timeless quality. Unfurling in moments of lilting, affecting earnestness and bursts of heady, cacophonous guitars, No Handshake Blues is a testament to the Manchester-based musician’s capacity for providing an almost mystic escapism by way of his infinitely curious and sprawling psychedelic-folk.

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Running the Very Bon tape label and putting on gigs under the same name, alongside playing in a whole host of Manchester DIY bands including Yerba Mansa and Sex Hands, it’s fair to say Edwin Stevens, the Welsh native behind the Irma Vep moniker, is a bit of a DIY music veteran. Having begun creating music as Irma Vep some years ago back in his hometown of Llanfairfechan, North Wales this album “is a homage to Llanfairfechan (Transylfechan to the locals)”. Throughout the tracks that comprise No Handshake Blues the wide-ranging sounds and Stevens’ varying approaches to composition culminate in a distinctively authentic music that bears this sense of reaching us from some distant place outside of everyday existence.

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There’s a certain rough yet soulful quality to Stevens’ voice, particularly emphatic combined with the lilting melodies on ‘You Know I’ve Been Ill’ or accompanied by the soaring string arrangements of final track ‘I’m Still Sorry’. Undoubtedly sprawling and unrestrained throughout, whether that be in gentle, plucked guitar lines or layers of wavering and chaotic noise, No Handshake Blues is imbued with a certain unassuming grandeur. As Stevens croons “love, love, love” on the distinctly classic sounding ‘Hey You!’ the kind of imperfect beauty that makes this record, somewhat unexpectedly, so endearing is particularly evident. This ultimately reassuring human quality at the core of the songs gradually unfolds itself more and more with each listen of No Handshake Blues, making it an album entirely deserving of your time.

No Handshake Blues releases via Faux Discx and Comfortable On A Tightrope on January 13.

Words by Kezia Cochrane


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