Lankum are something of an outlier in the contemporary Irish folk revival scene. Their experimental take on the genre borrows heavily from drone music and post-punk, as evidenced by their Mercury Prize winning second album under this moniker, The Livelong Day. Lyrically, too, the quartet stand apart from their peers, never afraid to veer into socio-political discourse.
If The Livelong Day, produced in collaboration with niche specialist John ‘Spud’ Murphy (Black Midi, Ten Past Seven, Ye Vagabonds), was a statement of intent, then False Lankum is a document of a group speaking their truth to power, venturing deeper into the murky depths of their sonic template.
The album, running at a monolithic hour and ten minutes, is cinematic in its scope but due to its immersive soundscapes and deliberate pacing, it never feels like it. The album’s strings flit from unsettling, eternally drawn voicings to siren-like shrieks, all deftly stitched seamlessly.
Lead singles ‘Go Dig My Grave’ and ‘Newcastle’ see Radie Peat toe the line between the ethereal and the earthly in her vocal delivery, while tracks like ‘Netta Perseus’ and ‘Clear Away in the Morning’ showcase the band’s masterful harmonies. ‘Master Crowley’, meanwhile, calls to mind the band’s haunting take on ‘The Wild Rover’ on The Livelong Day, deconstructing a folk standard and re-presenting it in a way that is only fit for the fucked up world we live in today, with menacing concertina measures and incessant clanging of foreign objects testing the listener’s mettle.
The album’s twists and turns are buoyed by its ambient codas (‘Fugue’ I – III), the textures present adding much to the narratives held within. ‘The New York Trader’, a rousing sea shanty, is underpinned and gradually drowned out by its dense layers of sound. False Lankum’s crown jewel, however, is ‘The Turn’ – an epic 13-minute track that juxtaposes distant vocals and an ebb-and-flow instrumentation.
False Lankum, as challenging as it is at first glance, is an increasingly rewarding listen. An album that meets the metaphors of its subject matter with its painfully crafted sound, it is perhaps an even greater statement than its much lauded predecessor, breathing new life and air into a style that, while never forgotten, has only started to be appreciated.
Sublime, by its true definition, in both its approach and its accomplishment.