Lankum False Lankum
Review by Chris Nickson
Lankum do intensity. They always have; it’s pretty much their stock-in-trade. But what they've done in the past seems almost mild compared to the full-on feel that marks out False Lankum. On their third album as Lankum, the Dublin quartet spread their musical wings, bring in some guests and take a trip into psychedelia, and all that while upping that intensity.
They set out their stall from the beginning with “Go Dig My Grave.” It’s stark and straightforward, with Radie Peat’s voice strong, forthright and demanding, gradually joined by a simple, ominous backing that increases the tension moment by moment. It’s the kind of music that’s impossible to ignore, completely riveting to the final note.
On False Lankum, pieces often start out simply enough only to turn and twist away in other directions. Take “Master Crowley’s” for example, a two-part reel that Peat learned from Noel Hill. She’s joined by two other concertina players (including her sister) and as the track progresses the playing gradually becomes more manic, a devil’s race that dissolves into bass and sonic strangeness, diving into some dark morass, only to climb out later. It’s pure psychedelia, in very the best sense, taking the listener on a trip through strange places that seems all the more disorienting when it’s over and the next song, “Newcastle” begins, guitar and voice emerging with simply crystal clarity.
"Netta Pereus" (excerpt)
Musical left turns are a hallmark of this album. “Netta Pereus” feels like a faint message from another planet, buoyed by Hammond organ before growing into a percussion-powered soundscape.
Then there’s “The New York Trader.” Halfway through there’s a moment of sudden silence, a calm in the eyes of the storm. When the music returns, the drums pound and the song is battered, storm-tossed on the ocean, blown around by stabs of voices. It’s a remarkable interpretation of a traditional song that slowly morphs into the tune “Big Black Cat” which seems innocent enough - until dark clouds begin to rise on the horizon.
"The Turn" (excerpts)
The album is sonically daring. But they save the most adventurous for last, the very lengthy closer, “The Turn.” It starts with voices sounds like a lost outtake from Dark Side Of The Moon, but it keeps shifting shape, refusing to remain any one thing, becoming lulling, wistful, wordless vocal harmonies for a moment before it changes again. Yet its curiously compelling, like wisps of smoke; you can watch but never quite catch them, then turning into pure noise. It ends up feeling like an homage to the late 1960s. Not really folk, but a journey to some interesting places and a strangely apt way to finish.
Confidence in what you’re doing is a wonderful thing, and Lankum definitely have it here. They’re willing to take chances, to push out towards the extremes and take it as far as they can. It’s intensity turned up to 11, and it works.
If you want comfortable, safe Irish folk music, you’re not going to find it here. If you’re ready to be thrilled, captivated by majestic singing and playing, and taken deep into a darker Ireland you don’t know, this is the place. Lankum have outdone themselves.