Music: Lankum – False Lankum (2023)

False Lankum, the latest extraordinary effort from the Irish band Lankum is clearly a signpost of things to come.

09 June 2023 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

By now it has been an awfully long time since Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan were embroiled in The Great Debate about the truth and validity of ‘true’ folk music at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

But of course shortly afterward the exact opposite was happening in the UK where bands like Fairport Convention and Stelleye Span would not only embrace ‘traditional folk music,’ but were lavishly (and justly) praised for their determination to stay true to both the traditional and the ‘new.’

You might assume we had learned our lessons but perhaps that is still not the case. In reviewing this latest effort from Lankum, the esteemed UK publication Uncut notes (see below) notes that ‘Lankum are fully aware of the traditions they pilfer.’ Like what the fuck does that mean? Is it along the lines of an item in Far Out that proclaimed that Bob Dylan had plagarized stories from the bible?

So fine. We are in the here and now. Well, a here and now and yesterday as envisioned by Lankum.

Their ‘False Lankum’ is astounding on so many levels. To begin:

In modern Irish parlance the term lankum is used to describe getting jumped on by a gang, but it seems that everywhere else there is a different understanding of the term. Playing more and more outside of Ireland and outside of our own immediate scene brought this home to us and so we decided to change the name.

Lankum – Culture Matters


From Wikipedia: Lankum are a contemporary Irish folk music group from Dublin, consisting of brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada and Radie Peat. In 2018 they were named Best Folk Group at the RTÉ Folk Music Awards, while Radie Peat was named Best Folk Singer.[1] The band were nominated for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Irish Album of the Year in 2017 for their album Between the Earth and Sky, and won the prize in 2019 for their album The Livelong Day. (Wikipedia)

So their path to False Lankum has been perhaps slow but quite deliberate. They have remained faithful to the origins of the songs but have also taken what can only be called a bold step in quite the other direction.

Listen to the open track from this album. It tells you everything you need to know about Lankum.

Much like the rest of the album, this opening track starts off in a way that might suggest we have all been here before. But we would be wrong, wouldn’t we?

Below you will find some additional information about the band and their latest album. They are really worth checking out and trust me when I say it will also be very interesting to see what they do in the future. False Lankum is clearly a signpost of things to come.

James Porteous | Clipper Media News

Buy False Lankum on Bandcamp

Buy False Lankum on Rough Trade

False Lankum Album Credits:

Future folk – Lauren Murphy on the magic of Lankum

Friday, 9 Jun 2023 |  Lauren Murphy | RTE

I first interviewed Ian Lynch back in 2015. In the Library Bar of Dublin’s Central Hotel – the much-missed bastion of journalists in search of a quiet bar for interviews.

We chatted about his band Lynched, and how their latest album Cold Old Fire had been steadily making waves on the UK scene; they had recently had a glowing review in The Guardian and an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland had given them a significant profile boost.

I remember at one point of the conversation, Lisa O’Neill wandered in and briefly stopped to exchange pleasantries. Little did both musicians know that eight years on, they would both be on the same label (Rough Trade), hailed as visionaries of the contemporary Irish folk scene, and have released two of the best albums of 2023 so far.

O’Neill’s new album All of This is Chance is exceptional, and being signed to a label like Rough Trade means that her singular talent is finally being highlighted on a wider scale. She’s at the vanguard of a movement that has gathered steam in recent years, which includes the likes of Junior Brother, John Francis Flynn, Aoife Nessa Frances et al.

Lankum, though. Whew. What a band.

The Dublin four-piece played three nights at Vicar Street last month, where Ian joked about their intention to open a wormhole to another dimension through the power of music. I think he was joking anyway, although by the end of the gig, I was wondering if they might have succeeded.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been at a gig where a) time passed so quickly, b) there was such a good vibe in the room and c) it felt like something genuinely special was being created. Lynch and his bandmates (Daragh Lynch, Radie Peat and Cormac Mac Diarmada) are so tight, so well-rehearsed and so simpatico with each other that it’s simply a joy to experience, especially live.

Catch them live, if you can, and be prepared to be transported to another world.

There’s a fluidity to their playing and singing (those harmonies!) that you don’t often hear in music. They’ve also clearly transcended the whole ‘folk’ thing; at Vicar Street, there were multiple generations in attendance; twentysomething hipsters rubbed shoulders with stoney-faced musos, beardy folk purists and a scattering of Mas and Das. At one point, I watched a middle-aged man dance like he was at a rave, arms aloft, completely lost in the music.

Trad and folk was not something that I grew up listening to, and there have been times where the sheer range and volume of the genre felt intimidating – but Lankum create a pathway into the tradition without having to dumb it down. They twist and bend the songs to fit their own framework.

I grew up knowing The Wild Rover as a bawdy drinking song, a comedy Irish track beloved of Americans and reserved for singalongs in Temple Bar tourist traps. Up the road in Vicar Street on a Tuesday night, Lankum’s version provided a mournful, haunting counterpoint to the shtick. Rocky Road to Dublin was a similar revelation, while Lord Abore and Mary Flynn, sung beautifully by Mac Diarmada with harmonies by Peat, is one of the most affecting performances I’ve seen all year.

There has been a lot of hyperbole over the last few years about Lankum, most of which has been (somewhat embarrassingly) laughed off by the band themselves. One indisputable fact, however, is that even if they decided to call it a day tomorrow, their catalogue will be digested and enjoyed for decades to come. The scary thing is that it feels like they haven’t even hit their peak yet.

Catch them live, if you can, and be prepared to be transported to another world: you can never underestimate the cosmic power of the tin whistle, after all.

False Lankum is out now. Lankum will perform at the All Together Now festival in Waterford, running August 4-6, 2023 – find out more here.

Lankum – False Lankum (Uncut)

Dublin experimental folk group Lankum deliver a bold and briny fifth album, False Lankum

Rob Young 7th April 2023 Uncut

Among these little islands to the north-west of the European mainland, the sea has always claimed a large slice of national mythologies. For hundreds of years England has brandished its thalassic geography as a treatise of power: the scepter’d isle that never never shall be enslaved.

But as England now cheerfully hoists itself by its own petard, disrespecting its own maritime coastline by defiling it with its own internal bowel movements, the sea arguably looms even larger in Ireland’s national story. From the arrival of St Patrick over the waves to Cromwell’s invasion across the waters; the waves of 19th-century emigration; arguably the nation’s greatest literary creation named for Ulysses, that seafaring hero; and now the contested ‘border down the Irish Sea’ of the botched Brexit deal.

Thankfully that patch of brine is unlikely to turn out quite as apocalyptically corpse-filled as Gustav Doré’s 19th-century engraving of Dante ferried across the deadly River Styx. The water could be the gateway to a new and better life, especially for their Irish ancestors or for the current generation of desperate asylum seekers, but it can also become a liquid cemetery. Still, as the image this Dublin four-piece have selected for the cover of False Lankum, it does rather establish a tone.


False Lankum is the group’s first since 2019’s The Livelong Day, and by some measure their most ambitious in terms of instrumentation, arrangements and the sheer creation of atmosphere. In the toolbox are bowed banjo, drums, hammered dulcimer, bowed guitar, harmonium, tape loops and drums. It takes quite some skill on a folk record to walk the line convincingly between enticingly supernatural mythos and the sense that it is unmistakably of our own time, that it’s not beached in an idealised version of history.

That really would be False, a word particularly pertinent in the context of folk music with its hangups about ‘authenticity’, still often held up as a benchmark of quality and credibility. But those who prize this fool’s gold forget (or remain wilfully ignorant) that folk arises from no single authoritative source; that its development and progress depends on the ones who dare to distort it and play with it, adding elements of the impure and the mongrel. 

James Joyce had a similar relationship to literary tradition, and it’s entirely appropriate that the band overnighted during the recording of this album in a Martello Tower in Sandycove near the one featured in Ulysses.

Lankum enjoy a satisfyingly polyglot existence – a band equally at home soundtracking a fashion show by Simone Rocha and perpetrating ritual anti-colonialist drones at Westminster Hall. Named after one of the grisliest, most bloodspattered songs in the English folk canon, Lankum are fully aware of the traditions they pilfer.

Of 12 tracks on this curated collection, there are three extracts from a single improvisation, two originals and seven folk songs, whose provenance is documented in the sleevenotes with the dedication of their forerunners in the folk scene of the late ’50s and 1960s. Their stories remind you how precarious and serendipitous is the handful of songs we call the ‘canon’.

False Lankum is soaked in the sea, though by no means oceanic. The soundworld is more cabined than that, gloriously cribbed and confined. The sea is one of many acknowledged folk routes, conduits by which songs and their messages are transported from place to place, handed on from culture to culture. “Go Dig My Grave”, a collage of floating verses from across the ages, began as part of an English 17th-century songbook by Robert Johnson (not that one), was taken up by Jean Ritchie in the 1960s on her wonderful live LP with Doc Watson, and has been revived more recently by Norway’s Susanna.

It’s a dark clod, the way Lankum shovel it. Draped across the song is an electronic high-pitched drone, irritating to the ear, like something Scott Walker might have arranged, a supernatural caul or shroud. Keening fiddle, caterwauling with dead souls. Every beat heavy as a marble slab crashing on a hole in the ground. A comatose funereal march with a coda full of whispers from the other side, the rumour mill of dead souls. It’s a hell of an opening track.

Lankum’s current group sound serves the idea of a modern folk music extremely well. Instead of privileging individual voices, they sound like more than the effort of a collective of humans – a kind of ancient dramatic chorus, submerging lone voices into the mass. They tell of stowaways detected by supernatural means in “New York Trader” and display delicacy in “On A Monday Morning” and the Child ballad “Lord Abore And Mary Flynn”, with its glorious restrained strings.

If this album has a visible sound world it is black wet leaf mulch on the forest floor, and the green shoots rising from out of it. There are, we’re told, sensual and angry techniques buried in the midriff of this album where instruments were subjected to subtle acts of violence, horsehair snapped, stroked across piano wires. But all of this is stirred deep within the record’s churning well, not left hanging to demonstrate avant-gardiness for its own sake.

However, the songs’ gaps have interesting little traces, dusty skitters, sound flakes. On the two originals (written by Daragh Lynch), “Netta Perseus” and “The Turn”, voices double across the octave, which always creates an unsettling sense that the song is being shadowed by some presence burrowing underground. “The Turn” begins like a lost tune from Floyd’s Wish You Were Here but flourishes over 13 minutes into a leaping throb of joy that shakes a defiant, heart-pumping fist at Death itself, and bows out on a garbled rush of noise recalling the notorious feedback interval in My Bloody Valentine’s “You Made Me Realise”.

Anyone dealing with folk music in the 21st century is working with salvage, with flotsam and jetsam from ages gone. Lankum have found a convincing way to keep the damn hulk going, stoking the engines of folk tradition and setting.


Magically straddling realities’ … (L-R) Cormac MacDiarmada, Radie Peat, Daragh Lynch and Ian Lynch of Lankum. Photograph: Sorcha Frances Ryder undefined

Lankum: False Lankum review – folk radicals get in touch with their softer side (Guardian)

Without ever diluting their power or abandoning their gothic intensity, the Dublin group’s fourth album lulls the listener with songs of exquisite softness and deeply affecting harmony

Lankum’s fourth album goes to new extremes, and not simply by dredging more trenches of their trademark gothic intensity. Four years after 2019’s raw-skinned The Livelong Day, with its exploratory epics, False Lankum teems with similar moments of iridescent bliss. But the 12 tracks here also unfurl into each other without a break, alternately lulling the listener then casting them into storms of shuddering sounds.

Recorded in Dublin’s Hellfire Studio by day, while the band spent their nights sleeping in a Martello tower on the coast, False Lankum begins with Radie Peat, the best folk singer of our times, instructing us to Go Dig My Grave. When Peat sings she magically straddles realities, sounding both like an uncompromising everywoman and a mystical instrument of bellows and reeds – a magic she employs to spiritual effect on the beautiful 17th-century ballad Newcastle.

Other tracks, such as Netta Perseus and Clear Away in the Morning (by US folklorist Gordon Bok), underline the band’s incredible facility with harmony. Their version of the latter is as accessible as Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal, full of exquisite softness – at least until their take on Master Crowley’s arrives, a menacing concertina reel that sounds precision-tooled to jar devils awake.

There is so much to revel in here: three instrumental fugues that are more about atmospheric discombobulation than repetition; Cormac Mac Diarmada’s sweet vocal debut on Child ballad Lord Abore and Mary Flynn; their deeply affecting turn through Cyril Tawney’s On a Monday Morning; the way hurdy-gurdies, hammered dulcimers and bowed piano strings create enveloping filmic canvases.

On recent form, Lankum could have become a hardcore drone band very easily, but they’ve done something braver by allowing their gentler sides a bold voice in the mix, while managing not to dilute their power or compromise their ambition. With a 3,300-capacity Roundhouse date later this year, they remain a radical band while making music that is reaching out to the mainstream – while also giving off the thrilling sense that there is so much more to come.

Lankum – False Lankum (Album Review) (Folk Radio UK)

written by Thomas Blake 20 March, 2023

Lankum have never shied away from difficult themes, and their attitude towards traditional music has always favoured experimentalism over conservatism. They are one of a very small handful of groups (Stick In The Wheel being the other notable example) who not only seek to constantly evolve their own music but, in doing so, change the way folk music is recorded and listened to.

It’s a truism to say that folk music is mutable and endlessly malleable, but for it to be so, someone has to have the courage to push it into genuinely new and exciting directions. False Lankum is the Dublin group’s fourth album as a quartet and their most uncompromising to date. It is not so much a retreat down the rabbit hole as a bold statement of intent and an example of how new ideas can still enliven old forms.

Lankum’s magic lies in the way that they are able to carry off these experiments while retaining the pulsating, punkish and frequently thrilling energy of a brilliant live band. Comparisons to The Pogues will persist and are valid up to a point, but closer reference points now seem to be post-rock and the noisier end of shoegaze, while the band’s continued use of heavy drones aligns them with experimental contemporary composers. What’s important is not so much that this is a wholly new combination of influences but that Lankum are able to bring them together with such aplomb. It all feels entirely natural.

It begins with disarming simplicity: Radie Peat’s unaccompanied vocal takes up the first sixty seconds of Go Dig My Grave, and you get the impression that the album could potentially go off in any direction.

But with the addition of instruments – minimal at first, but slowly coiling and building – the intensity ratchets up. The discordant drone that drops about halfway through the song is where the band really nail their colours to the mast. Layers of sound – screeches, plucks, and percussive thumps – build upon each other as the song moves away from its melodic beginnings and focuses in on a very deliberate, very dark mood.

Ian Lynch, who plays uilleann pipes, whistles and various other instruments, explored these techniques on his recent solo album. Here, with a full band, they are perfected: the framing device of a traditional song allows them to exist within – and to disrupt – the conventional narratives of folk music. The result is a profound, all-encompassing and ultimately compassionate exploration of grief.

A similar thing happens on Clear Away In The Morning, albeit with different techniques. The song begins with an atonal chirrup which blurs the boundaries between organic and synthetic before a more traditional thrum of guitar strings anchors the song in calmer waters, and a beautiful harmony keeps everything afloat. These maritime metaphors are not accidental – the whole album resonates with the hum and movement of the sea: the deep drones and high squalls, the dirty winds and clear skies. False Lankum’s involvement with the sea may be accidental – the band didn’t realise until after recording that every song contained a maritime reference of some sort – but it feels absolutely right, almost fated. It’s as if the band use the sea in the same way that Brian Eno might use a car park or an office block, or a shopping centre.

Lankum are masters at twisting a song at a certain point and taking it into unexplored corners. The New York Trader begins as a punkish acoustic chant before turning the noise up to eleven and tapping into heavy gothic-industrial energy, and then escaping its own confines with a brisk, confident fiddle tune. By contrast, the slow, winding On A Monday Morning has an almost imperceptible build, a musical landscape that swells, chimes and dies.

Throughout the album, moods are invoked with subtlety and ambivalence. Master Crowley is a reel pitched somewhere between jaunty and menacing, with its darker side being teased out as the song descends into hard squeals and ferrous clangs. Generally speaking, the songs with Peat on lead vocals are lighter in tone and more hopeful.

Her singing on Newcastle is deceptive in its apparent simplicity and full of longing. Despite the sadness of the words, there is a defiant sense of positivity in Peat’s rendering. On the lengthy and tragic ballad Lord Abore and Mary Flynn, Peat’s voice joins Cormac Dermody’s, lending emotional heft to a stripped-back arrangement. The band’s characteristically weighty sound creeps slowly in over the course of the song: set against the comparative sweetness of the melody, it creates a delicate tension.

The emergence of Dermody as a singer is one of False Lankum’s most pleasant surprises. Equally impressive is the songwriting of Daragh Lynch, who provides the album’s two original tracks. Netta Perseus is gentle, beguiling and full of lyrical mystery. Like everything Lankum do, though, it is laced with darkness and, halfway through, switches from a lucid acoustic strum to a thick instrumental soup, as if a sudden madness had come across the narrator.

Daragh’s other composition, The Turn, provides the False Lankum’s extraordinary final thirteen minutes. It is structured like a kind of progressive metal opus, full of unexpected turns but always revolving around a consistent and compelling message until the song finally breaks down into darkness and apocalyptic discordance.

Sprinkled throughout the album are three short fugues that act like the chapter breaks in a Godard film. They are not meant as palate cleansers in the way that interludes often are; instead, they are like little musical puzzles, ways to engage the listener more actively with the way the sounds are being created. In a way, they hold the key to Lankum’s highly individual approach to music-making: a discourse between band and listener that is challenging, raw, brutally honest and always rewarding.

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