Mamaleek – Diner Coffee [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

Diner Coffee offers jazz and blues in their most perverse form, squeezing them from their hiding place like cysts. A counterpart to Imperial Triumphant’s latest, which portrays its filth beneath an urban sheen of golden decadence, anonymous duo-now-collective Mamaleek embraces the grime in the setting of a city diner. Never forsaking its noise rock tendencies, Diner Coffee feels like an answer to Oxbow’s A Cold and Well-Lit Place, more contemplative and earthier sounds taking precedent alongside a proclivity for sonic abuse. Mamaleek displays blue collar shuddering and writhing at its most decadent and filthy, portrayed through a lens of hysteria, the haze of thick cigarette smoke, and the stench of cheap coffee. Opener “Libations to Sacred Clowns” jangles and guffaws in the face of dense off-kilter riffs – if you can call them that – riotous laughter resounding from the background. This sets the tone for one of the most evasive and tantalizing albums of the year.

“Boiler Room” can be a bit of a misdirect in its relatively traditional metal approach, bluesy chord progressions in chugging guitars, wind instrument noodles, and free jazz explosions feel like the heaving dry coughs on a cholesterol-saturated heart, its greasy recipient facedown in a plate of chicken-fried chicken. The blues dominate thereafter offer a particularly unnerving and Badalamenti-inspired breed of brutality. “Badtimers” is a masterclass in simmering menace, limping at a relentless gait that takes the plodding rhythms of Blut aus Nord’s “Procession of Dead Clowns” with walking basslines, jazzy piano jangles and haunting horns and vocals, continuing into the interlude “Save Your Poor Wicked Soul.” Crescendos and restraint dominate the runtime “Wharf Rats in the Moonlight,” which collapses into chaotic noise by its midpoint, a cacophony of jazz, noise, drum fills, and barking vocals. “Grief and the Headhunter’s Rage” perfects the schizophrenic tendency for start-stop blasts with shimmering tightrope arpeggios and arrhythmic bass pulses, exchanging ominous moans with growls and horn solos, offering the album’s only heartfelt melody.

While total alienation eats through “Grief and the Headhunter’s Rage” and “Wharf Rats in the Moonlight” with Swans-vandalized and Sun Ra-inspired insanity, the suddenly accessible closing title track, meanwhile, deals in uncanny valley. In what could pass as a traditional blues-rock groove, clean guitar strums meet piano, walking basslines, soothing keyboard, and contemplative drum rhythms, its instrumentals would not be out of place on a Steely Dan album. Its only indication of Mamaleek’s crooked fingers are the howling barks that rest in the background, or its penultimate conclusion: suddenly dissonant guitar arpeggios, which hit us quicker than we can process. Diner Coffee is not a punishing album in the traditional sense, as the lulls in filthy repose in “Badtimers” will haunt for far longer than the caustic riffs of “Boiler Room” bludgeon.

The grime that you feel on that plate of greasy steak-and-eggs and the off-white porcelain cup of under-brewed Farmer Brothers you ordered at that seedy Cleveland joint is channeled into Diner Coffee. Contrary to Spirit of Ecstasy, a foray into the glitz and glamor of the world of luxury, Mamaleek succumbs to the decay with the grace of a neon Coors Light sign crusted with smoke stains and dust. A crumbling foundation supports decrepit walls, which reek of water damage and body odors of years past, but you can’t help but explore – but the greatest bounties are up to you.

Songs to Drink Black: “Boiler Room,” “Badtimers,” “Wharf Rats in the Moonlight,” “Diner Coffee”

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