This’ll divide, confuse, shock and cause debate in equal measure.
The coming together around Lankum’s Radie Peat of singer writer Katie Kim, Percolator drummer Eleanor Myler and bassist John Murphy – herein known as Spud – is startling, radical, gothic and just a bit deranged. Labelling themselves as “experimental doom folk” they’ve crafted a six track debut which recasts the darker elements of the tradition as focus and inspiration.
At times the results are hair raisingly primitive as on the opening ‘Cruel Mother,’ which acapella is stark and disturbing, the tale of infantacide unravels to a backing of repeated rhythms and guitar lines stretched to a tense nine minutes plus. Equally compelling is ‘The Trees They Do Grow High,’ gloomy strings play a death march, a parlour piano adds dissonant texture, the harmonies sound otherworldly. ‘The Wife Of Michael Cleary’ ups the tension by degrees, Peat’s vocal amplifying the shocking, though true, story of Ireland’s last supposed changeling who was murdered by her husband. The real crackling piece of drone and noise though is their cover of Scott Walker’s ‘Farmer In The City,’ it leaves the impression of a song turned inside out then played at 16rpm, five minutes in and things go seriously off piste with synthetic bleeps, long held notes and even what sound like road drills. Certainly different.
They’re not the first though to bring the spooked and violent tales behind much folk material to the fore, just a few moments consideration recalls Crumbling Ghost who made albums of sinister folk maelstrom using trad ballads, Steeleye getting quite eerie on ‘Long Lankin’ – plenty of gore in that one, Malcolm’s Interview did an equally barbaric take of ‘Cruel Mother’ on a long since vanished B side and Horslips spin off Host made a whole mysterious album out of the Bridgit Cleary incident on ‘Tryal.’ ‘Cyrm’ utilises a similar Celtic head motif to the one which graced ‘The Tain,’ another Horslips offering, though it’s the almost intense redness of the cover here which’ll make Oxn’s debut stand out in the racks.
Few however have crafted an offering this intense and brooding, the music is bleak but fascinating. As the first release on the recently revived Claddagh label ‘Cyrm’ signposts an intention to venture into uncharted territory, which is never a bad thing. This is the sound of daring exploration.