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Irma Vep | Embarrassed Landscape

The Scottish singer-guitarist cut most of this powerful album in just two days.

THE PRESS RELEASE:Irma Vep is the on-going, evolving main vehicle for polymath musician Edwin Stevens and on Embarrassed Landscape the project has reached a zenith. Primarily recorded in Stevens’s adopted home town of Glasgow over two days with frequent collaborators Ruari Maclean and Andrew Cheetham, Embarrassed Landscape is an album that breathes in a fetid skip full of millennial dread, self-effacing anxiety and doubt before exhaling it as heartbreaking songs and ecstatic abandon. Following a series of limited releases spread out over the course of a decade, recorded in fits and starts around the United Kingdom as the protagonists wanderlust saw fit, Irma Vep’s fourth album proper presents Stevens’ vision in its fullest and most realised form. Built around the skeleton of Stevens’ songwriting and fleshed out with loose, virtuoso playing, it’s a body of work that could have been the anxious songs of an over-thinker but rendered here Embarrassed Landscape revels in a kind of un-selfconscious confidence. Indeed, various tensions throughout the album are constantly revealing. Lyrics are riven with poetic, crushing self-analysis and absurdity only to be performed against a backdrop of trance-rock music skewered with Stevens’ own instantly recognisable guitar playing, a style free and full of fire. Songs wring nuggets of uncanny truth out of prosaic, every day activities while sounding like Rolling Thunder Revue era-Dylan. Songs that seem hewn from some unspeakable personal pain are laced with a disarming streak of black humour, massive, world-ending psych jams that harken to Vibracathedral Orchestra’s wall of sound dissipate into tender songs that deserve to be picked apart and cried to. Tension needs release and here the release needs tension.”

MY TWO CENTS: Any album that starts off with a shape-shifting 10-minute psychedelic noise-rock jam is worth a listen. And any album that follows it up with everything from hauntingly hushed lo-fi folk balladry and jangly indie-pop baubles to raggedly glorious indie-rock blasts is worth adding to your collection. Especially after you realize Irma Vep‘s Edwin Stevens and co. recorded the bulk of this powerful creation in just two damn days — less time than it takes some bands to pin down a snare sound. Admittedly, Stevens’ dusty-spiderweb vocals may be a bit of an acquired taste, but his blazing guitar heroics and cathartic, surging songs more than make up the difference. He’s got nothing to be embarrassed about here.