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Album Review: The Invisible - Rispah

28 June 2012 | 3:42 pm | Bob Baker Fish

It’s a melancholic album, Okumu’s lush, near whispered vocals are heartfelt and reflective, like an exhausted cousin to the angelic sounds of Rob Dickinson in ‘90s almost-shoegaze UK outfit Catherine Wheel.

The Invisible were born from UK experimental composer Matthew Herbert's live band. When Herbert offered to put out the solo album for band member Dave Okumu, Okumu roped in friends Tom Herbert and Leo Taylor to release their 2009 Mercury Prize-nominated debut.

The trio's follow-up some three years later is quite a different beast, irrevocably coloured by the death of Okumu's mother, which at first disconnected him from music, though later became the anchor point and inspiration for the album. Okumu calls it a “love letter to grief”, and you can hear recordings of his grandmother and others singing spirituals over his mother's body sampled into a few pieces on this album. Not surprisingly it's a melancholic album, Okumu's lush, near whispered vocals are heartfelt and reflective, like an exhausted cousin to the angelic sounds of Rob Dickinson in '90s almost-shoegaze UK outfit Catherine Wheel.

Musically you can't help but hear elements of Radiohead in the merging of the electronics and spidery guitar melodies, not to mention Okumu's vocals, though The Invisible don't build in intensity or density, unlike Radiohead, keeping everything relatively consistent dynamically. Their sound is probably more commercial than Radiohead, containing elements of dance music, even jazz, and there is an understated charm about what they do. They're at their best when they deviate, however, such as on the wonky psychedelia of The Wall, which makes the listener hear the music differently, confused, warbling strangely distended out of the speakers, but undeniably beautiful. Then there's the final piece, Protection, which counterbalances Okumu's gentle croon with a thriving hyper-energetic repetitive electronic rock-out that somehow evolves into the aforementioned Kenyan spirituals, leaving the listener with an overwhelming sense of spiritual peace.