There is an inherent darkness to Lankum’s music. The Irish folk quartet place a strong focus on the texture of their arrangements and the word “apocalyptic” comes up frequently during their set at Alice.
They open with “Wild Rover,” the first song off of their latest album, The Livelong Day. The slow build of the song is a good representation of their song structures. The harmonium comes in halfway through the song and serves as a constant, ominous hum throughout the evening. It’s referred to as “that thing that sounds like the apocalypse,” and often requires Radie Peat to sit on the floor to play it, out of the line of sight of most of the audience.
The band layer vocals and harmonies three and four at a time, but their goal is never to blast the audience away. The same way they create texture with their instruments, they create textures with their vocals, and nuance takes precedence over volume. There is a lot of subtlety beneath the moodiness of their songs. The slow builds in complexity are exemplified when the band stitch together their darker tracks with the foot-stomping melodies more commonly associated with Irish folk music (outside of Ireland, at least).
But the band themselves are a bit more light-hearted than their music — or their suggestion of their music — might lead you to believe. Their chatter between songs is funny, warm, and often self-deprecating. They introduce the song “The Rocky Road to Dublin” with a story about being included on a competition show called Ireland’s Favourite Folk Song. “All we can say,” says Ian Lynch, “is this is not Irelands’s favorite folk song.”
Lankum are also another band resisting phoney encores, and Peat comments that it is deeply embarrassing to leave the stage, assume people want you to come back, and figure out how long you need to stand behind the curtain. Instead, the band simply asked if people wanted them to play two more songs. The audience did, and so the band did.