Release Date: Jun 10, 2016
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Like its predecessor, 2012’s Rispah, you could describe the third album by the south London trio the Invisible as a record inspired by stark intimations of mortality. Four years ago, it was the death of frontman Dave Okumu’s mother midway through recording that provided the emotional fuel for the trio’s songs. Patience, meanwhile, is haunted by Okumu’s own first-hand brush with death: after he suffered an electric shock while playing on stage in Lagos, his life was apparently saved by bassist Tom Herbert removing the guitar from his hands.
'This is a new one' Dave Okumu, the charismatic frontman of the genre splicing trio The Invisible, says to a packed venue. Everyone looks at each other with a mix of glee and trepidation. After the song starts it’s clear that it’s business as usual. This is the feeling I had, a few weeks later, when I started to play their new album, Patience, for the first time.
The Invisible make modern music that is also primitive and basic in its intensity. Maybe part of this is their nature, but there also has been no shortage of serious personal circumstances to inform their art. Their sophomore effort, Rispah (2012) was inspired by the death of singer/guitarist Dave Okumu’s mother. The band have said the new Patience is meant to be a celebration of life after Okumu himself narrowly escaped death after being electrocuted while on stage, but don’t expect a batch of life-affirming uptempo stompers.
After veering down a dark road on 2012’s Rispah, which was troubled by the death of frontman Dave Okumu’s mother during recording, the Invisible have crossed very resolutely back into the light. On Patience, their third album, the south London trio have smoothed away the jagged guitar work and jittery electronics to create a tight, cohesive record bathed in a hazy West Coast glow (Okumu cites time spent in Los Angeles as an influence). You could call it excellent dinner-party music – the floaty groove of opener So Well sets a tone that’s rarely disturbed over 41 minutes – but tracks such as Memories are so beautifully constructed that such faint praise would only seem mean.
They might not always appear in full view, but chances are The Invisible have had some sort of sway over your music consumption over the past decade. They’ve not been hacking your Spotify account and meddling with your playlists or anything like that, but their impact has been far-reaching, working or playing with the likes of Adele, Grace Jones, Beck, St. Vincent, Roots Manuva, Paloma Faith – names that merely pick at the surface of their sphere.
The Invisible are a collective of incredibly talented musicians each with a masterful knowledge of their craft. Patience - their third album proper - sees them dabble with a different sound but ultimately revert to their brilliant best. The Invisible are, in a clichéd sentence, the best band you've never heard of. Their self-titled debut album was Mercury nominated and named the iTunes Critic's Choice album of the year.
The mood of an album is often a direct corollary of the emotional state of its creators during the period of its conception. It seems that this was the first time in a while that the members of The Invisible were making music free from personal complications. Patience has a radiance to it and a noticeably grander production spectrum than the raw session feel of their 2009 eponymous debut and New Age electro-funk shades, à la TV on the Radio, of their 2012 sophomore effort, Rispah (which was partly inspired by the passing of frontman Dave Okumu's mother).
London trio the Invisible's the groovy and nocturnal Patience is a thick, at times murky album that draws from funk, afro-beat and synth-oriented pop styles, and seems ideal for unwinding at the end of an evening. Some might come away with a desire for a little more colour and variety to these tracks, but it's nonetheless a committed performance from all involved.There's a late-night, pseudo-tropical vibe to Patience that conjures humid after-hours clubs whose hazy cigar smoke is approximated by the free-floating pads that bassist/synth player Tom Herbert often employs. It is a lugubrious, consistently midtempo album, with vocalist and guitarist Dave Okumu crooning in higher registers at some points, but mostly rocking a soulful baritone.
The Invisible here emerge on the other side of two acclaimed albums of funky indie rock and a dizzying array of work with names almost too numerous to pick highlights from (although Adele stands out). They’ve included a good deal of those names in their game of Patience, delivering a poppier, more explicitly electronic collection than their previous work. This direction was suggested by last year’s nice single Easy Now, and the non-album tracks are consistently winning through as Darkstar’s remix of Jessie Ware-touched opener So Well is a more interesting proposition than the LP cut.
The Invisible 'Patience' (Ninja Tune)Sometimes you can’t help trainspotting. On very first listen to this album, we couldn’t help jotting down a list of acts we heard echoed: Frankie Knuckles, Dr Dre, Lindstrøm, Arthur Russell, Destiny’s Child, Fujiya & Miiyagi, Joy Division, Sade, Talk Talk, Stereolab. And that’s before you get onto the influence of the guest singers: Jessie Ware, Anna Calvi, Connan Mockasin and more.
What a strange double-life The Invisible lead. One minute – well, every few years – they're putting out their own skewwhiff pop albums, the next they're backing up Adele on big, emotional global smashes. It's always been a bit like this. Dave Okumu (vocals/guitar), Tom Herbert (bass/synth) and Leo Taylor (drums) met as kids but only came together as a band after they'd bumped into each other over the years, habitually playing on other people's records, waiting for the opportunity to craft something of their own.
If you would've asked Carl and I that we'd still be writing this feature a few months ago, we would've been surprised. But we just can't help ourselves, seeing as this year has been exceptionally rich in terms of album releases. So how did we fare with our monthly "leftovers" this time around? Well ….
The Invisible’s forthcoming third album is thir first in four years and, based around the considerable talents of singer and guitarist (and occasional Mercury Prize judge) Dave Okumu, the band have developed significantly on their polished, downtempo sound. I first discovered The Invisible supporting the sadly-missed Doves at Warrington's Parr Hall a couple of months prior to their debut being unleashed. Being an imposing presence, Dave Okumu literally dominated the stage, playing the entire duration of the set wearing a full-length coat.
Fittingly named, The Invisible are session musicians to the stars, a trio of unassuming childhood pals who make up the house band you’ve never heard of. But with their third album of interplanetary soul and darkly lit disco sounds, surely it’s their time to scoop up some of the spotlight for themselves?Led by the multi-talented Dave Okumu – who played guitar for the young, jazzy Amy Winehouse and co-wrote Jessie Ware’s 2010 debut album – the London-based trio also features Tom Herbert and Leo Taylor, who’ve recently been busying themselves as part of Adele’s ‘25’ studio band. Stepping out of the shadow of some of the 21st century’s biggest and best divas can’t be easy, but ‘Patience’ is a classy side-step into their own laid-back, impeccably textured territory, a plush world where Sade and D’Angelo are queen and king, with Hot Chip as their loyal men-in-waiting.