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The Invisible
Patience Matthew Horton , June 16th, 2016 09:48

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.

Everything slotted into place with a satisfying click in 2009 with their Mercury-nominated self-titled debut, a fazed mix of electronica and the dreamier end of indie. Rispah (2012), a tribute to Okumu's late mother, was hazier still, plumbing a Cure kind of despair on 'Utopia' and 'The Wall', but still finding lithe grooves in 'Wings' and 'Generational'. With the right following wind, there was a big, brave, alternative pop band ready to flower.

Patience was nearly thwarted by another tragedy when Okumu was electrocuted on stage in Lagos, but thankfully he came through and now The Invisible seize an opportunity they almost missed. Here self-styled "luckiest man alive" Okumu is determined to express his good fortune – and he and his band do it by pulling in all those favours.

There's no Adele, but other singers who've benefited from that Invisible presence – Jessie Ware, Anna Calvi, Rosie Lowe – pitch in here, alongside New Zealand's prime purveyor of weird-out loungecore, Connan Mockasin, and Floating Points' Sam Shepherd. Subtly or overtly, they lift the new stuff – Ware swooping through the ambient R&B haze of 'So Well', Calvi uncharacteristically soft and breathy against Okumu's hoarse mumble on the itchy, bassy 'Love Me Again' – and the union of talents gives a positive spin.

There are positive messages too. 'Believe In Yourself' could hardly be anything else as it swells up through scratchy guitar licks, addictive and kinetic. 'Save You', with its Brit-funk strut, and 'Life's Dancers', all twinkling slow jam synths and a prayer "to help you through", accentuate the healing power of friends and lovers. None of this feels glib, not in the circumstances, and not when the music steers clear of mush to come out gorgeous, taut and streamlined.

And lighter than ever, really, barely a dark recess explored. The closest Patience comes to something unsettling lurking stage-left is in the minor keys of 'Best Of Me', where Okumu's promise that "you'll always have the best of me" rears up like a threat. But soon sinister electro-pop thickens into a jacking workout, then an overlapping cosmic wig-out, as The Invisible unfurl their full, joyous breadth of skills. It's our own good luck that they've had the chance.