I saw Irish band Lankum at the Komedia in Brighton a couple of years ago. I discovered their music by accident on a playlist created for me by an algorithm – the positive side of AI in music. I have always liked traditional folk music as long as it is treated in a not-so-traditional way. Lankum fits this bill perfectly.
was really surprised to see False Lankum featuring in albums of the year charts (see The Guardian and The Economist), because I never thought their appeal would be widespread. But given the attention the band is now getting I thought it would be good to take one of their songs and see how it works musically.
Lankum specialise in songs that build from quiet beginnings into a wall of sound and the first song from their new album False Lankum is a good example of this. Take a listen:
Lankum describes Go Dig My Grave on their website here, along with the lyrics.
The song uses a minor pentatonic (five tone) scale, one of the most widely used scales of all, particularly in folk and blues. This particular song is in C minor, for which the pentatonic scale is C Eb F G Bb C.
Now there are hints of a few different chords in this version of the song – Cm, Eb, Fm, perhaps others – but the overall effect is of a drone on a C minor chord. According to Harry Sword, whose book Monolithic Undertow: In Search of Sonic Oblivion was released in 2020, the drone is the most ancient of all musical forms: ‘From the womb – where the rushing of maternal blood is heard loud and clear at 88 decibels – through myriad historical, spiritual and subcultural pathways, our connection to the drone runs deep.‘
In his Guardian article, No Drone Unturned, Harry Sword shares this haunting piece from Éliane Radigue, created on the ARP 2500 modular synthesiser …
Lankum’s music is not all minor key and drone-like – there are plenty of more ‘accessible’ songs on the new album. But they do like to venture into the avant-garde. Here’s Fugue II:
For full effect, try and catch Lankum live. They’re touring Europe in early 2024.