If you happened to be passing by the lake at Latitude Festival in recent years you'll have probably been engrossed by the breathtaking dramatics of a ten-piece orchestral musical ensemble. That group was The Irrepressibles, and far from just being the entertainment laid on at everyone's favourite cut-off point between the campsite and main stage, they're also an exquisite bunch in the recording studio too.
Essentially the brainchild of multi-faceted writer, composer, musician and occasional film director Jamie McDermott, The Irrepressibles as a concept live up to their moniker in more ways than one. Having established themselves on the live circuit, largely due to the theatrical structure embellished within their heavily artistic performances, first album Mirror Mirror suggested their potential wasn't just confined to the stage. While falling short of being the perfect debut McDermott and his assorted cohorts had hoped for, the lessons learned in constructing its operatic pomp would be the catalyst for what was always destined to be a mouth-watering follow-up.
And two years later, that's exactly the kind of progression McDermott and the rest of The Irrepressibles has achieved with Nude. Consisting of 12 pieces in total, fusing discordant electronica with the more familiar classical orchestrations of old, Nude represents McDermott's attempts at writing a concept record explaining the rich complexities of life. What that basically boils down to is one of the most refreshingly honest, soul-bearing records bestowed upon us in recent years. Anyone in doubt about McDermott and The Irrepressibles identity as anything more than an ornate show band will have those opinions changed forthwith.
Most probably in the space of four minutes in fact. "When you were the age 15 I shot the arrow at you" opines McDermott on 'Arrow', Nude's priceless opening gambit. "Then you put that arrow in and became an angel too" he sighs wistfully, its delicate orchestral finale reminiscent of Wild Beasts at their most intricate. From that moment onwards Nude's is nothing less than addictive. While the haunting piano led 'New World' draws comparisons with Antony & The Johnsons, largely due to the way McDermott emphasises the most trivial of emotions to such devastating effect, the acoustic strains of 'To Be' and hi-energy precision dominating lead single 'Tears' exemplify Nude's diversity.
Unpredictable in a sense, yet heartfelt down to each and every last syllable, it's a multi-dimensional collection that reaches an unassailable climax in the final third courtesy of the grandiose three-songs-in-one 'Our World It Fell So Quietly' and lovelorn ballad 'Two Men In Love'. Welded together by the three-minutes long instrumental interlude 'Time Passing', those two compositions are well worth the entrance fee alone. "If I ask you will you be prince?" enquires McDermott on the latter, all softly spoken and gently played out then finally declaring "I'm in love!" at the song's (and Nude's) outset.
Significantly improving on its predecessor, Nude marks The Irrepressibles' arrival as serious contenders in a similar way to Patrick Wolf with The Magic Position or the aforementioned Wild Beasts and Two Dancers. Where they go next is anyone's guess, but it will surely be a bewitching, fulfilling experience finding out.
8Dom Gourlay's Score