What does Louis Jucker sound like?
Early Bon Iver with a rustic homemade edge… out of suitcases.
The review of Louis Jucker & le Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain – Suitcase Suite
There is a lot more to indie folk gem ‘Suitcase Suite’ if you knew exactly what was going on with the instruments themselves. This collaboration between Swiss musician and instrument builder Louis Jucker and le Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC) is built entirely out of second-hand suitcases. Every single instrument was constructed inside a suitcase. Sometimes that might mean placing a tiny instrument inside a suitcase but every noise, click, whirl and voice is being produced inside these portable boxes.
To see this in action, watch the absolutely fascinating music video for ‘March of the Fallen Scions’ below. It showcases exactly how Louis Jucker builds these bizarre yet marvellous creations. It’s something I could watch over and over and this song was the start of a commission which four years later resulted in ‘Suitcase Suite’.
With these suitcase instruments, Louis and the NEC make a homemade indie folk gem of an album. Whether it’s typewriter beats, headlamp signal bleeps, xylophone modulators or breezy guitars and zithers, everything here is taking place inside the suitcases. It sounds like a crazy playground and whilst I’d love to see this as an actual video concert, the album stands on its own two feet without knowing the technical marvel of it all.
There are the grizzly and distorted synths raging in ‘Asylee’. The synths are meshed with vibrating strings running at a high velocity and vocal samples that coo and ooh like Halloween ghosts. In stark minimalism, ‘The House We Let Them Take’ is a suitcase zither and crooning vocal collapse like an emotional souffle. Both go about their emotional sirens in very different ways but they feel part of the same whole.
The rustic and inventive ‘On Their Knees’ is a bluesy indie gem with a machine beep for a beat allowing low-swung guitar wails to muse away. It is a wistful and melancholy track that reminds me of Beck’s DIY homemade side. ‘First Count’ uses all kinds of kinetic equipment to create a quirky playful percussive loop. The guitars and vocals leave long gaps as they bleed out in the speakers allowing strange and unusual frequency synths and noises to take centre stage. It is like a microscopic orchestra of everyday sounds is playing. ‘Seasonable’ plays a similar vibe but has a crazy wind section that splashes out into freeform jazz. Whilst a deep blues guitar and bass underbelly slink forward, the wind suitcases are living their best life out loud. They are then twisted through frequencies inside their own suitcases showing there is a total merger of acoustic and digital for each instrument.
‘My Windy Heart’ creates a suitcase harmonium of sorts and then distorts guitars and vocals over the top for an unusual purging psychedelic drone. The album finishes with ‘March of the Fallen Scions’. This is the track that started it all and possibly showcases the concept and idea best. Dramatic, defiant, anthemic and triumphant in defeat, it is an indie folk anthem.
Four years of instrument creation, sound design and songwriting later – ‘Suitcase Suite’ is the result. It is a merrily chaotic and unusual album that deserves a couple of listens to truly bed in. After that, you’ll stop thinking about the crazy instrument production and focus on the excellent songcraft. These are growers, not showers and anyone who likes the odder side of indie folk or folktronica will adore this release. It took me a little time to appreciate it but now I truly do. A fabulous work of design and art.
Recommended track: March of the Fallen Scions
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