The Suitcase Junket: Songs from Another Dimension

Make Time
Whistlepig Records
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Every now and then something comes across my desk that defies categorization. Anything label you want to slap on projects by The Suitcase Junket likely only exists in some other dimension. The Suitcase Junket is Matt Lorenz, who also plays with Rusty Belle, a band that stretches a few genres of its own. As The Suitcase Junket, Lorenz is a solo act who is never alone. Did you ever see a one-man-band? Lorenz does that—sort of. He is an odd man, and I mean that with respect and affection. He sports a wax mustache that Salvador Dali would have envied, an untamed head of curly hair, plays a guitar he found in a dumpster, and carries a literal suitcase full of stuff that doubles as makeshift percussion kit once emptied of content that includes a cymbal, a circular saw blade, a cooking pot, bones, and a sort of limberjack fashioned from baby shoes. Most of these are played simultaneously, courtesy of strings, pulleys, and wires attached to various parts of his body.

The music is weird stuff—again meant with affection. On "New Old Friend" he sings falsetto directly into the soundhole of his acoustic guitar; "Twisted Fate" puts one in mind of a Delta ditty—except for the throat singing*. At other moments, Lorenz's singing is more of a wild keening, and most of the rest of the time it's rough and razor-edged in the way that Tom Waits sings, though Lorenz is at the higher range of the scales. One hears elements of folk music, but also blues, rock, and grunge in the instrumentals. He takes full advantage of his distressed guitar, twisting notes on songs such as "Made of Rain" or playing some gritty slide augmented by chunky bass on "Hot Rod God." As the latter title suggests, the songs also list to the offbeat side of things. They make enough sense that they are not entirely surreal, but they are enigmatic enough that you might want to keep that adjective handy. A sample: "If I were to sound like you, whom would I then be/And if you were to sound like me, who would you then be/Oh. Here comes everybody else/If I were to have your mind, would I still be my kind? " I've seen Lorenz perform on several occasions and the crowd reaction is usually the same: either unbridled enthusiasm, or that special kind of head-scratching that comes when someone asks, "What the hell was that?" I like him a lot—in occasional doses. Maybe the album should come with a warning: Not for everyday use. Play only when a weird wind blows. –Rob Weir

* For the uninitiated, throat singing, also called overtone singing, is a way of modulating one's voice to produce one or more tones that resonate simultaneously above the dominant pitch. It is most associated with Mongolia, the Tuvan section of Russia, and Iceland. 

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