Review: Lankum

Cinematic, horror-fuelled harmonies and crunchy moments of dissonance

music review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Photo by Sorcha Frances Ryder
Published 18 Aug 2023

There is a powerful dichotomy between light and shade which permeates the foundations of Lankum’s musicality. The Dublin quartet, made up of Radie Peat, Ian Lynch, Daragh Lynch, and Cormac MacDiarmada – each multi-instrumentalists in their own right – craft the perfect ebb and flow between sombre and bewitching, reflective and tumultuous. 

Each song, from epic opener ‘The Wild Rover’ to the tender Cyril Tawney classic ‘On a Monday Morning’, is performed with a grandeur that befits the vastness of the band’s sonic make-up. The often haunting lyrics are accompanied by a cacophony of sounds made by instruments like strings, a concertina, a harmonium, Uilleann pipes, a squeezebox and a giant drum that towers over the rest of the kit. 

‘The New York Trader’, from the band’s recently Mercury-nominated album False Lankum, tells the tale of a murderous captain, building beautifully in its dynamics and closing with some intricate interplay between Ian Lynch and MacDiarmada on pipes and fiddle. Meanwhile, Peat’s intense and brooding a capella vocals introduce ‘Go Dig My Grave’, the track that opens said album, before the funereal drone takes over. 

In between, Lankum are conversational and casual, relaying the crowd with chat ranging from the correct pronunciation of Edinburgh to how the hangover can be better than the drink itself. But when they weave together their cinematic, horror-fuelled harmonies and crunchy moments of dissonance, they become an other-worldly force. You feel rooted to their music, as they invite the audience to temporarily step away from the relative safety of traditional Irish folk into something more gothic and more intense.