IRMA VEP - NO HANDSHAKE BLUES
faux discx 2017, edition of 500
"Irma Vep is a loner, a joker, a roamer, a ribald construct riddled with both earnest anxiety and mercurial songwriting talent birthed by a young Edwin Stevens in Llanfairfechan, North Wales. Having since fully grown into Irma Vep and now residing in Manchester, Stevens' discography has expanded to document every aspect of his music, from ecstatically free group experiments to bare, sparse songwriting that cuts to the quick, shorn of ornament or pretence. No Handshake Blues is a homage to Llanfairfechan (Transylfechan to the locals).
Having bedded down into Manchester's bourgeoning DIY scene, Stevens moonlights in several other groups (Sex Hands, Klaus Kinski, Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, Yerba Mansa), bringing with him an instantly recognisable guitar language. However it's in Irma Vep that his most life-affirming, troubling and thrilling music is made. Much Irma Vep feels like what 'classic' music should feel like if it weren't so Classic. Each record, each song exists as an evolving drama." - FAUX DISCX
that's a nice wholesale pitch for one EDWIN STEVENS who has already delivered one of my upper echelon favorites this year as half of favored "psychotic rock power duo" YERBA MANSA [REC# 170] courtesy DEEP DISTANCE and now looks to one-up that and just about everything else i've heard this year with this unexpected "loner joker roamer earnest mercurial" anti-folk blues masterpiece
there's some CODEINE and MUDHONEY and SONIC YOUTH codons stashed away in STEVENS' dna as expressed on the opener's twelve minute barrage that hits like a velvety MAGIK MARKERS cover of CAN's "little star of bethlehem" fronted by a stoned out DAN MELCHIOR - a jam, yes, but not the sort he's churned as YERBA MANSA or as a member of free rock outfit DSDV - the distinction is clear - this is in no way a free rock exercise, as born out over the next half hour
after kickin out the jams, STEVENS embarks on an outsider folk blues journey the likes of which challenge the best i can recall, and what i recall at the moment is DAN MELCHIOR's THANKYOU VERY MUCH and WOODEN WAND's glorious 2009-11 run, and more tangentially the worn down (sonically and in my copy's case, physically) flipside of PAUL CARY's GHOST OF A MAN (get a good whiff on "armadillo man" > "i want to be degraded") and MARK ALEXANDER MCINTYRE's GRAPES (which, despite all these being way underrated and/or underappreciated gems, GRAPES might be the most of all) - these references aren't too far removed from one another - weird but cool guys with true grit and a knack for "zingers" (as TOTH puts it) and a wry sense of humor and learned everything the hard way
but STEVENS has more up his sleeve than just a loner stoner jam and a handful of countrified punk ballads - there's a lot of variety, a lot of key details filling in and filling out the record - the title track is like MARISA ANDERSON covers FLYING SAUCER ATTACK or somethin like that, a shimmering shoegazing folk guitar hymn for the ages that fades into a short n sweet am radio retro pop lovesong before diving off the deep end into "the moaning song" which is a six minute psychotropic meditation kinda like WILLIE LANE laying down a nice VU & NICO drone with MELCHIOR blurting and crooning like a bizarro TIM BUCKLEY - but there's no denying the strong force here on NO HANDSHAKE BLUES is the blues (of the outsider folk kind) which everything else swirls around like a mid-life tropical storm with an eye that's a knotted mess of self destruction, self pity and sorrow, staying true to the blues maxim "lord if it wasn't for bad luck i wouldn't have no luck at all"