Review by Ciarán Steward
To truly understand this album, one must first note the origin of the title, ‘Rispah’. The name is that of guitarist/vocalist Dave Okumu’s mother who passed away whilst the band were mid-way through recording a follow-up to their 2009 Mercury-nominated self-titled debut album. The spiritual core of the album is audible throughout and the deep connection between Okumu and the lyrics is immediately clear.
The band are able to combine a haunting atmosphere with a mixture of indie sounds and African music, the singing on the opening track ‘A Particle Of Love’ being a key example of this. The simplicity of the following track, ‘Generational’, is key to its effectiveness as the sparse lyrics and open nature of the first verse are almost hypnotic. The same could be said for ‘Wings’, relying heavily on repeated guitar, synth and drum parts to capture a place in the mind of the listener. The band appear to have taken a very minimalist approach to the album, something that helps to keep the album in the balance between the genres of indie and hip-hop. It would be unfair to group this album in either of those particular groups at it strives to create its own original sound, becoming an example of creativity and great musicianship than simply adhering to stereotypes.
One of the real highlights of the album is the stripped-down ‘What Happened’, combining very few synth notes with a mellow vocal part. Flooded with emotion, this track seems so natural and raw, the backing vocal harmonising perfectly and adding brilliantly to the atmosphere of the song. As it lightly builds towards the end, the emotional impact of the song reaches a peak just before the African singing returns, grounding the song and allowing the listener a brief insight into the mind of Dave Okumu.
The second half of the album begins with ‘The Great Wound’ and ‘Surrender’, songs that share similarities with The XX and Temper Trap in the way that they are produced and shaped. ‘Surrender’ has a particularly interesting climax which is one of the few times throughout the album in which the stereo field seems filled, despite the high level of reverb in place. The densely dark ‘Utopia’ follows this, bringing with it a strong sense of tension and fear.
Closing the album are a trio of extended songs; ‘The Wall’, ‘The Stain’, and ‘Protection’. These are all largely atmospheric, the second relying heavily on repetition and sweetly sung vocals. The final track, ‘Protection’, is one of the most varied tracks on the album and is a real peak of creativity.
As a finished product, Rispah is undoubtedly impressive and the band have clearly been able to get across their intentions well. The lyrics, essential to the message of the LP, are enough to make the listener think seriously for a moment. A well thought out album that highlights the true potential of The Invisible.
Review by Ciarán Steward