Experimental rock duo Mamaleek‘s eighth full-length album literally screams as if mortally wounded during its prettiest, most lushly improvised sections grating down intentionally chaotic expression unto a personal shade of bluesy, chilled out yet not-so alright emotional distance. By sending the listener’s mind to a waystation, a place of comfort away from a journey out of place and out of mind, ‘Diner Coffee‘ slowly processes a consciousness tortured by its yearning for better days one which quickly becomes obsessed with nostalgia, humor, and as much optimism as is reasonable feigned when stepping away from darkest days. The effect is hardly prone to reductionism within reason, though it is rooted in the earliest definitions of post-rock music wherein repurposed musical language finds a way to speak eerie nothings into ears that’ve become long unwilling to listen. I certainly can’t guarantee you’ll like it, or even bother with more than song or two, but those seeking square-pegged juxtaposition and bizarre confidence in the abstract may find a lasting thrill, or, a few choice moods herein.
Where they started, is long gone (good riddance). — Was it ineptitude scraped across a broad non-populist palette or high-minded deconstructionist idealism that’d first gotten (then) falser-than-thou atmospheric kitchen sink black metal abstractionist duo Mamaleek noticed? Interest in the disintegration of formal standards available to skronk jazz, trap beats, indie/post-rock and any other freshly notable heat available to insert into the potential scuff of bedroom blackened heavy music ‘noise’ circa the late 2000’s surely hit the “Bandcamp black metal” wilderness of the time as something a bit more daring than the mush of album-per-month artists droning out every single riff they’d ever practiced in front of their free copy of GarageBand. By their third album, ‘Kurdaitcha‘ (2011), they’d been tagged as post-modernist black metal and adopted by certain spheres of the heavy music press since the album had actually proven salable to some degree alongside similarly emergent and abstract post-black idealist act Liturgy. The fuzzed-over shoegazing hum of that record and its blown out remnants of atmospheric/post-black metal would nearly mark the end of the band’s exploration of underground metal periphery with that interest largely reserved for aggressive and bizarre vocal performances beyond ‘He Never Spoke a Mumblin’ Word‘ (2014) which’d serve as my own first encounter with the band as I sought out the general tag of “avant-garde” or “psychedelic” black metal. From that point Mamaleek would essentially become an experimental anti-rock band, with jazz flavored live drumming and noise rock influence dominating their still broadminded approach.
Post-modernist post-rock, null post-black. — Who does Mamaleek post-2014 appeal to? Beyond the remnants of experimental black metal listeners pursuing profound art metal strange with noveau optimism we most often find the art rock spheres, the noise rock heads scratch out their eyes looking for more content with -some- manner of production, and the jazz-adjacent post-music eccentrics all land well upon records like ‘Out of Time‘ (2018) which’d perhaps been the first time the duo had translated the early non-metal intent of their sound in clearest, crispiest yet approachable terminology. It was essentially their best of “beats” record, a chill record without any chill that’d retained the sort of impersonal distance on the vocals but fully warmed up to the public ear otherwise. So, this is where we hit a weird point with the average surface level listener wherein there was a meager hint of post-black metal intensity to speak of in Mamaleek‘s music yet the “black metal adjacent” descriptive takes across the board would persist in approach of what we should consider their finest, most substantial record to date ‘Come and See‘ (2020) a live-recorded shoegazing noise rock record which was well girded by rushes of intense rhythm, not unheard of within the realms of modern abstraction but a sound somewhat unique to these folks. With a professional standard and well-developed musicianship arriving in their works ~2015-’til-present it’d taken a few years but it felt like these folks had escaped the ‘weird for the sake of weird’ and accidentally great side of experimental music and landed upon capable emotional vignette, depictions of time and place with some strong reactive value which, sure, were generally listenable if not repeatable.
Iteration unto identity would be the death of ’em, right? I mean each album has been so intentionally divergent in thread than the last beyond ‘Fever Dream‘ (2008) that the only real threat to the notably unpredictable modus of the thus far generally prolific group would be something predictable, easily typecast and slotted outside of the “Experimental/Other” sector. There is little here on ‘Diner Coffee‘ that’d suggest normative or predictable station for Mamaleek‘s touchy-feely brand of anti-social anti-rock but we do find them leaning into hints of contemporary jazz, hip-hop, noise rock and quite a lot of shouting in familiar ways as it drifts by. From my point of view it is a hairier, slightly more frustrated edge set upon the corrupted but chilled-out vibe of ‘Out of Time‘ but the lo-fi hip-hop influence and jazz guitar abstractions are far more of a focus now that they’re willing to vocalize a bit more in implication of theme. It might behoove the listener to simply come to their own conclusions in terms of meaning, theme, and such as they pull teeth through the greater ride of this record since I’m not so sure it all ends up reading as intended.
Though they’ve presented ‘Diner Coffee‘ as a point to reflect upon catastrophic pandemia and the upheaval of public social conscience with a lightening mood, a sense of humor, and in appreciation of “the little things” most of what Mamaleek have set up here on record read a bit like what Cartman sees when closing his eyes per flashes of tradition, animalistic horror and with an entirely restless rhythmic sense. There’ll be little here that is comfortable beyond the sleepier bump of the beats and the general early post-rock feeling (read: Bark Psychosis, Cul de Sac, Bowery Electric) which as been reduced to both coldest and warmest extremes to the point where the intended nostalgia doesn’t lie anywhere but the artists yet undetermined point of view which is variously sentimental and, well, shouted and hollered like a maniac tooth-yanking session with an alt-jazz metal trio backing. “Badtimers” sums this feeling up perfectly, an oozy kinda waking moment that clobbers n’ hops into screaming organische blues-industrial pulse while the ranting vocal runs amount to gasping, unintelligible bleeding out at their most intense. It isn’t exactly a safe place to unwind in motion but the artistry is clearly vomited out, leaned into in such a way that it becomes propulsive ’til it becomes time to rescind into dream-hop delirium ’til the end of the piece. One of many headspaces to be felt but not directly read, or analyzed, since the experience really is just an expressionist wave, unknotting itself of the steady level of detail with which Mamaleek have approached each piece on this record.
“Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage” makes good on the jazz-fussed up guitar fusion the band have been experimenting with since ‘Via Dolorosa‘ (2015) giving the idea a wobbling to-and-fro rhythmic tilt and arriving upon an appropriate second progression just as the song collapses off-scene. The complete collapse comes with what I’d consider the best piece on the record, “Wharf Rats in the Moonlight”, which reads as some kind of former atmospheric sludge band attempting a full prog-rock chamber freakout and mostly getting there despite the vocals kinda being a bit much for the big moment as it sustains. Fading out of this song, and with Mamaleek‘s discography still fresh in mind, it at least registers that they’ve long escaped the experimental bedroom music grind and are achieving what’d always been a grand idea within professional means.
The tracklist sort of perked my ear along the way otherwise as a fan of noise rock, early post-rock sedation, contemporary jazz-rock abstraction and such across the board but songs like “Boiler Room” will obviously challenge the merely curious with its strange vocalizations up front. Without weirding context ‘Diner Coffee‘ isn’t going to be possible to consider and delve into for most general audiences and the overall effect of the record -should- rightfully strain both the attention span and the resolve of listeners wandering in unprepared, deaf to the possibilities before they can hear them stretched loose. The only real challenge I’d faced was, again, that the intent of the artist in explanation didn’t match the wilted and deranged feeling it produced and I could not relate with the sensation of unironic “nostalgia” as it was presented in the slightest since it all felt entirely ironic and desolate in mindset. If I’d sat with the lyrics and connected with the vocals a bit more overall it’d likely be an easier recommendation but this is record that seems best enjoyed by folks with a certain set of skills, those who’d already have a bit of the palette and myriad pastiche in grasp. A moderately high recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||September 30th, 2022|
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