False Lankum follows their 2019 breakthrough album The Livelong Day, which paved the way for critical and commercial success, earning them that year’s RTE Choice Music Prize (the Irish equivalent of the Album of the Year Grammy) and the #8 spot on NPR Music’s Best Albums of the Year list. Drawing on traditional folk songs, Lankum put their own dark, distinctive mark onto each, leaning into heavy drones and sonic distortion that imparts new intensity and beauty into each track. This record sees the band cement their breakout from the folk genre, creating bold, contemporary music that may be fashioned from traditional elements but is firmly new, sitting comfortably alongside Rough Trade labelmates like black midi and Gilla Band. False Lankum also features two original tracks, ‘Netta Perseus’ and ‘The Turn’, both penned by the group’s Daragh Lynch.
‘Go Dig My Grave’ was discovered by Lankum’s Radie Peat who learned the particular version on the album from the singing of Jean Ritchie, who recorded it in 1963 on the album Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City. It is a member of a family of songs which seem to be largely made up of what are known as ‘floating verses’, originally composed as stanzas of various different ballads, some of which date back as far as the 17th century.
“'Our interpretation of the traditional song Go Dig My Grave is one that centres around the emotion of grief – all-consuming, unbearable and absolute” explain Lankum, “A visceral physical reaction to something that the body and mind are almost incapable of processing. The second part of the song is inspired by the Irish tradition of keening (from the Irish caoineadh) – a traditional form of lament for the deceased. Regarded by some as opening up ‘perilous channels of communication with the dead’, the practice came under severe censure from the catholic church in Ireland from the 17th century on.”
From the start, Dublin’s Lankum planned for False Lankum, their fourth record and third for Rough Trade, to feel like a complete piece – a progression and a journey for the listener. “We wanted to create more contrast on the record so the light parts would be almost spiritual and the dark parts would be incredibly dark, even horror inducing,” they explain. The album’s 12 tracks, composed of 10 traditional songs and two originals, show the four-piece using a new palate to colour their sound in an increasingly experimental way, alongside longtime producer John ‘Spud’ Murphy.