With a sizzling intensity that feels almost menacing, Lankum draw deeply from the well of Ireland's ancient music, transporting both familiar and long-forgotten tunes to surreal new heights while adding a handful of worthy originals to the canon. The Dublin folk band who previously operated as Lynched stepped out in a big way on 2017's Between the Earth and the Sky, their first outing for Rough Trade. Their use of Uilleann pipe and harmonium drones, creaking fiddle, and stark four-part vocal harmonies felt more anarchic and punk than anything that could come out of an amplifier. Using much the same approach, they somehow manage to muscle their way to another level on their exhilarating follow-up release. Neither for the faint of heart nor short of attention, The Livelong Day is a vigorously played, smartly arranged long game that sees classics like "The Wild Rover" and "Katie Cruel" stretched and driven into unpredictable minor epics using little more than the group's voices and a handful of acoustic instruments. The nostalgic, edgeless world of contemporary Celtic music may as well not exist for Lankum, who seem to borrow more from the earthy folk-rock lineage of the Watersons, Planxty, or even Comus' mossy aberrance. Eschewing the loose psychedelia of the acid folk revival and the cloying earnestness of indie folk, Lankum are quite deliberate in their manipulation of the traditional folk idiom. The gradual eight-minute build-up on their anxious rendition of "The Wild Rover" is a work of art, and the massive instrumental payoff it finally begets feels like a punch to the gut. As the band's lone female voice, Radie Peat lends a strong but plaintive tone to "Katie Cruel" and "The Hunting of the Wren," her reedy delivery echoing the rural timbre of Lal Waterson. Of the album's original fare, "The Young People" is the highlight. Sung in tandem by brothers Daragh and Ian Lynch, the mournful ballad with its gorgeous refrain could easily pass for something written centuries earlier. On the other end of the spectrum, the guttural march of "The Pride of Petravore," another Lankum original, is downright frightening. The Livelong Day is a challenging album made up of long, droning songs with numerous verses and arcane sounds. It will not be for everyone, but to the discerning listener, its dark majesty is well worth the engagement.
Livelong Day Review
by Timothy Monger