The Invisible - Rispah
Three years on from their Mercury-nominated debut, this London trio returns with a more spiritual focus. Named after lead singer Dave Okumu's mother, who passed away midway through the recording of the album, The Invisible adopted a much more harrowing sound for their latest effort. Whereas their self-titled debut was more at the Hot Chip end of the music spectrum, it would seem that this time around, Radiohead was a heavier influence. The album was produced by former UNKLE man Richard File, and although you can hear his touches at times, it is clear the band had a message they wanted to convey and deliberately chose how to do it.
'Spiritual' is today's key word. Tribal singing begins and ends proceedings on Rispah; it certainly brings a sense that the album, like many ancient tribes from around the world, is trying to commune with the afterlife and higher beings. It's only natural that the album should sound this way, but it's a big departure from their previous dance floor-friendly work. Constantly building without ever exploding seems to be the overall direction of the album. There are glimpses throughout wherein Rispah abandons its downbeat nature, embraces the keyboards of LCD Soundsystem and starts to up the pace a bit, with 'Generational' sounding like a slower version of Justice's 'Civilization.' 'The Great Wound' and closer 'Protection' provide the rest of the pounding bass lines for the album, but they almost feel out of place in the surroundings of 'Utopia,' 'The Stain' and 'Lifeline.'
Though fans of old will find nuggets to enjoy, Rispah is a less accessible record than The Invisible's debut. Many listeners may find it hard to believe this is the same band who came as outsiders to win the Mercury Prize in 2009. On the face of it, Okumu's intention was to create a harrowing and beautiful dedication to the life of his mother, and in that respect he and the rest of The Invisible have succeeded. But too many songs hum along without establishing themselves clearly enough, and in instances such as 'The Stain,' it takes several listens to realise that this is indeed a song with its own merits and not simply a five-minute link between tracks. Rispah is dark and moving, but it lacks the certainty of how to fulfil its purpose.