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No Handshake Blues

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  • A regular on the D.I.Y. scene of Manchester, England, guitarist/songwriter Edwin Stevens has been releasing solo material under the alias Irma Vep since 2012. The project's fourth full-length, No Handshake Blues, is a joint release by Manchester's Comfortable on a Tightrope and Brighton's Faux Discx, and kicks off with a nearly 12-minute slow boil ("A Woman's Work Is Never Done"). Some of Stevens' other bands, including Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura and Yerba Mansa, concentrate on instrumental jams and experimental rock, while Sex Hands has more of a noisy garage pop sound. He incorporates these approaches and more into No Handshake Blues, a sprawling trail through atmospheric indie rock, noise experiments, and improvisational song with or without vocals. "It Runs Slow" is spare, haunting ballad with slowly rocking arpeggiated guitar and dark lyrics. Other instances of structured song are scattered throughout the track list, but it's not exactly a default here. "The Moaning Song," for instance, is a rough, rumbling lament that stretches on for six-and-a-half minutes, slowly building momentum but never seeing release or a chorus. With its elegant guitar work, a standout on the record is the title track, which is actually an instrumental. All performances on the album are covered by Stevens and frequent collaborator Daniel Bridgwood-Hill (aka dbh). Mostly a demo-quality recording with a lot of filtered echo, some of the lusher, more intense entries here ("I Want to Be Degraded") beg for more intimate playback, but the songs still power through. ~ Marcy Donelson
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