Video: ‘London Girl’

The Invisible, a trio from London, are the first really obscure act on this year’s Mercury shortlist; and the first thing I’ll say is that they don’t deserve to be obscure. Their music is quite hard to describe, but I’ll have a go: guitar-based, yes, but drawing on elements of jazz, soul, dance, and probably a few other styles as well.

Anyway, it might difficult to capture in words, but this music is certainly interesting to listen to. Some songs take unexpected turns, like the opener ‘In Retrograde’, which starts off with a minimal ‘nursery-rhyme’ backing, before bursting halfway through into something odd and spooky. Others take a particular sound — like the funk of ‘OK’ or the dance of ‘London Girl’ — and make it ‘coalesce’ into a continuous whole (I’m not sure if that truly captures what I mean, or if it will make sense to anyone else, but it’s the best description I can think of).

There are a couple of moments on The Invisible that don’t quite work for me, such as the spiky guitars on ‘Spiral’ — which I guess are meant to reflect the title of the song, but had a nails-down-blackboard effect on my ears. I think the biggest weakness of the album, though, is that Dave Okumu’s vocals tend to fade into the background a little too much. Perhaps, of course, that’s the intention, so that they become part of the texture of the record; either way, I still think the album would be stronger if the vocals were more prominent.

That said, this is a grower of an album that could be a strong contender for the Prize.

Video: ‘Monster’s Waltz’ (live)

Read my other Mercury Prize 2009 posts here.