Not content with earning a Mercury Prize nomination for this year’s False Lankum album, Lankum’s Radie Peat returns mere months later with the debut LP by new group ØXN. Originating in a collaboration between Peat and Katie Kim – who is herself coming right off the back of last year’s masterful Hour of the Ox – the pair expanded to a quartet with the addition of Percolator members Ellie Myler and John ‘Spud’ Murphy, the latter already a long-term collaborator of everyone involved as well as being an increasingly in-demand producer further afield.
Long awaited since the then-unnamed group performed a stunning Nollaig na mBan livestream in collaboration with visual artist Vicky Langan during lockdown in early 2021, CYRM expertly combines each member’s own individual strengths across its six tracks. As the first new signing to legendary trad label Claddagh Records in 18 years, the project, like Lankum, is largely rooted in traditional murder ballads reimagined as doomy, droning epics, but sidelines some of Lankum’s more traditional instrumentation in favour of a more modern palette. Peat’s unaccompanied vocal that opens ‘Cruel Mother’ could easily be mistaken for her other band at first, until she’s gradually joined by warbling electric guitar arpeggios, ominous synths and the locked-in bass and drums of Percolator’s well-established rhythm section, Myler’s drumming almost tribal at times.
Lead single ‘Love Henry’ was first debuted unexpectedly with a mysterious masked performance on The Mary Wallopers’ Halloween livestream back in 2020 (it’s no coincidence that the album is released over the Halloween period as well) and Katie Kim’s piano stabs and vocal harmonies during its climax remain truly haunting. Elsewhere, a cover of Maija Sofia’s modern classic ‘The Wife of Michael Cleary’ adds a more menacing tension to the intense sadness of the original, while ‘The Feast’ sees Kim effectively cover herself, updating a highlight from her excellent 2012 album Cover & Flood. Most devastating though is Kim’s 13-minute version of Scott Walker’s ‘Farmer in the City’ – a cut from his unsettling mid-90s opus Tilt – that turns truly apocalyptic in its latter half. CYRM is a mesmerising record. Cathal McBride