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The Suitcase Junket Crafts Beautiful Music Out of Items Found in Trash

Rising indie-rock act uses everything from battered cooking pots to moldy used guitars.

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One man’s trash is Matt Lorenz’s treasure.

To create the mangy songs that he records under the name The Suitcase Junket, Lorenz uses castoffs he finds in the junk-pile.

“I discovered in collage that people throw out a lot of incredibly great stuff,” he said.

Like, say, a vintage Japanese acoustic guitar, which Lorenz originally found coated with mold, or a battered double-wide suitcase which he repurposed as a bass drum. In his hands, tossed-out silverware, cooking pots and gas cans become percussion instruments. He twisted them all into a contraption that looks like either a Rube Goldberg puzzle or a strange new toy from Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse.

Music lovers can hear the sound they make together on Lorenz’s new album, Pile Driver (Signature Sounds Recordings). As much distinction as his clanging one-man band approach brings, his compositions draw on genres we all know well. There’s a grungier-than-thou, neo-Seattle sound to “The Next Act,” a rockabilly kick in “Jackie,” and skanky swamp rock moving through “Evangeline.”

“It’s all in the American tradition of theft and deception,” Lorenz said.

 

Rock musician Suitcase Junket
Matt Lorenz a.k.a. Suitcase Junket (Joanna Chattman)

For an international flair, some of the vocals draw on a South Indian form of throat singing that allows the vocalist to hit two notes at once. The ultimate forager, Lorenz learned that technique while taking an Indian cooking class in college. “When I learned how to do it, I felt like I was joining an ancient club,” he said. “Humans have been doing this for as long as there have been fires.”

At the same time, Lorenz keeps his music new by continually dumpster-diving for more found objects.

“The circular saw blade was one of the most surprising things I’ve found,” he said. “I dropped it and it made this really beautiful bell tone. I bet if you found enough different sizes, you could make a glockenspiel.”

See The Suitcase Junket video for “The Next Act” at the bottom.

Imelda May
Imelda May

ALBUM WORTH HEARING

Imelda Mae, Life, Love, Flesh, Blood (Verve)

For years, Irish singer Imelda Mae belted out American rockabilly songs with the brio of a young Carl Perkins. Now, five albums into her career, she has traded bluster for the blues.

Credit—or blame—should go to the collapse of her long marriage. The pain of it drew from her something deep. From the start, Mae has had a ringingly clear and muscular voice. But her songs tended to skim the surface of deeper emotions and thoughts.

By contrast, a new track like “Call Me” has the rumination of a lost Van Morrison ballad, while “The Girl I Used to Be” features the kind of melody Bonnie Raitt would kill for. In both, Mae uses her cleanest tone to make her feelings plain.

The star had significant musical support for her project from Americana producer T-Bone Burnett, as well as the rhythm section from the hit Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration, Raising Sand. She also brought back an old collaborator, Jeff Beck, whose crystalline guitar solo in “Black Tears” could have come from Les Paul. Mae matched it to a vocal as crazy with feeling as Patsy Cline.

For an artist who too long wore her style like armor, it’s great to hear her come undone.

Jim Farber has been writing about music since The Ramones were young. He served as Chief Music Critic for the New York Daily News for 25 years and currently contributes to The New York Times, The Guardian, Mojo, and many other outlets. Jim is a two-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, America’s highest prize in music criticism.