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Review: Lankum @ Bristol Beacon

Bruno Bridger takes us through one of the Beacon's displays of rising acts this month, Irish folk legends Lankum

By Bruno Bridger, Second Year English and Philosophy

Lankum have made a name for themselves by occupying an unusual space in the alternative mainstream: christened by Rough Trade, Cillian Murphy and the Mercury Awards as a force to be reckoned with. Their sound is equal parts majestic and terrifying, somehow hopeful despite their eerie 'doom folk' sound. Live, the band mustered up a direct, primitive engagement from the audience who were captivated by the group's authority over the soundscape of Beacon Hall.

I was speaking with a friend the other day about our experiences of seeing Lankum live over the years. Before this discussion I had found it hard to accurately summarise the experience, something between a primal fear and some sort of pagan ecstasy, though I think we had finally hit the nail on the head. ‘The show begins and it’s like some sort of ritual sacrifice is going to be performed at any moment’.

This statement was only emphasised when I had the chance to catch them at the newly re-opened Bristol Beacon on a rainy weeknight. Before we get into the details of Lankum’s set, it is worth also noting the spectacular support from fellow Dublin-based musician Rachael Lavelle, who provided modernist, synth-laden soundscapes before Lankum assembled their traditional reeds, drums and fiddles on the Beacon stage.

Ian Lynch and Radie Peat, the groups primary vocalists, often operated without instrumental backing throughout the set, an affectation that only emphasised the haunting, ghostly atmospheres being generated in the concert hall. Early in the set, Lankum play 'The Young People', a spellbinding original off 2019’s The Livelong Day, a performance which cut through the doom-folk instrumentation, and seem to claw out of its forgotten past a hidden reverie, which soon filled the room.

The band’s reputation as masters of folkloric re-interpretation was also demonstrated  fully. Closing the set with one of 2022’s best tracks 'Go Dig My Grave', off the Mercury Prize Nominated False Lankum , itself a reinterpretation of a centuries old burial song, bordered on the cathartic, with the blood orange lights on stage ebbing and flowing alongside the tracks violently churning rhythms.

Upon leaving the Beacon, in a sense I felt I had witnessed a ritual of some sorts, that there had been something mystical akin to occult magic at play. The band had dragged me back into the past and slowly as the set ended, spat me back into our troubled present, as I stood on a rainy Park Street, the ancient reeds were still ringing in my ears. While I fumbled for change for a kebab I was left in the liminal. Between ancient melody and the shock of the new. 

Featured Image: Benji Chapman

Have you listened to Lankum?