When Mamaleek was announced for Roadburn 2023, I was dancing the happy dance because I had long longed to see the band and now they’d be playing in Tilburg! Unfortunately they played late on Sunday, so I again had no chance to see them, but I heard that their gig was really good. Really good is also their last album Diner Coffee and the fact that there’s no review of the record on VoS must be changed – immediately!
The record starts with ”Libations to Sacred Clowns”, the hardest part on the whole album. The hard hits on the drum kit combined with the hysterical laughter shows which direction this record is gonna take. The record deals with the sometimes strange effect that the biggest catastrophes result in the most hysterical cascades of laughter and that becomes clear when listening to the somewhat near-funky basslines that the songs offer. Or the parts that are nearly easy listening, for example the beginning of ”Badtimers”: the song combines that deep funkiness with some very nice jazzy dottings by the piano, the track is dominated by both elements which remind the listener a bit of Bohren & Der Club of Gore or other Doomjazz bands. The way the piano points are that tiny bit out of tune also shows, that this is not simply about harmony, but about atmosphere.; but don’t think that this is not a Doomjazz-inspired record, it shares a lot of elements with that genre, but still goes that little extra mile towards Avantgarde.
The way that songs like ”Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage” play with multiple genres seems second to none nowadays: On this track here we witness jazzy cascades on the drums, combined with some bluesy parts on the guitar alongside some strange guitar lines, a deep, gnarly bass and vocals changing between despaired shouts, crooning cleans and growly mumbles and a songstructure that is obviously aiming for the finale but that erupts less as dangerous as expected. Which is another great thing about Mamaleek in general: They play their stuff and don’t care too much about the audience’s expectations.
And just when one thinks he has the anonymous band all figured out on this record, they throw in a song like ”Wharf Rats in the Moonlight” which is partially Free Jazz, a bit Canterbury folksiness and also Noisey Avantgarde – to put it in a nutshell: It’s crazy and only Mamaleek can get away with it. Especially with breaking the song in two parts after roughly 3:20 minutes, because then it sounds like some of the ambient gaze-stuff that some of their labelmates offer. To clarify it a bit – the guys do all of this and much more still; yet, the piano and bassline hold it all together.
There is this wonderful equilibrium the tracks float in, it’s wonderfully dreams and dramatically nightmarish at the same time. But somehow that is what Mamaleek has always been about, right? Don’t expect to understand their records after one spin – they always need more. Diner Coffee and its seven tracks are no difference when it comes to that, and I will follow this band whichever hook and turn they make. Until I see them live one day. And afterwards as well!