By: Editorial staff
Date: June, 2023

With Time Traveler Ute Lemper accomplishes the unusual feat that, for listeners, the 23 years which lie between the individual songs aren’t obvious at all. The present in the past and the past in the present merge as if by osmosis. With her new album, Ute Lemper emancipates herself musically from all categories. Depending on socialization and personal preferences one can hear these songs as pop, rock, jazz, soul or chanson, all of these at once, or simply just as Ute Lemper. She is no longer ready to live up to any expectations, but rather draws inspiration from songs that she herself enjoys listening to. This includes references to artists and bands like Hiatus Kaiyote, John Legend, Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Annie Lennox, Erykah Badu or Robert Glasper but without attempting to copy any of them. All songs are one hundred percent Ute Lemper. In some pieces she takes risks in terms of production and sound, initially luring the listener onto a completely wrong path, such as in the title track; in others she conceals small surprising details in the production, putting the songs, herself and not least of all the auditory perception to the test over and over again. Time Traveler is a very personal album, but its message extends far beyond Ute’s own life experience. With Time Traveler, Ute Lemper has given a wonderful gift to herself. And yet, first and foremost, it is an album that functions like a signpost. In the unsparing self-honesty with which, in a most accessible way, Ute Lemper reflects on her life, it’s possible for most listeners to find themselves as well.

Also available is Ute Lemper’s fantastic tribute to Marlene Dietrich Ute Lemper – Rendezvous With Marlene SKU: JHAU186 Format: CD UPC: 4260075861869 Street Date: 05/22/20

Click here to see the review online and buy your copy of Time Traveler.

By: Thom Jurek
Date: June 2023

In 2000, singer Ute Lemper released Punishing Kiss, a collection written for her by contemporary songsmiths including Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Neil Hannon, Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan, and Scott Walker. Deeply inspired by the album and its tour, she felt she could begin composing her own tunes. In (future husband) Todd Turkisher’s New York recording studio, she wrote on paper, composed music on a piano, and committed her ideas to analog tape. Though some originals appeared on 2002’s But One Day…, the balance were relegated to her in-laws’ basement. She composed more material for 2008’s Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, but none of those early songs were included.

The source tapes were rediscovered on a shelf in 2021 alongside a backup cassette copy; Turkisherand Lemper restored and digitized them. She realized that some selections were simply too dated to rework, while others held enough of a contemporary spark for reinvention. The couple’s production tweaks included juxtaposing bits of her youthful voice with lyrics re-sung by the artist atop modern grooves. Seized by an impulse to write, she again began scratching on paper, then composing at the piano. Time Traveler’s title track was the first song to emerge in what is ultimately a musical encounter between a mature artist and her younger self.

The title track is a breezy exercise in contemporary jazz framed by casually strummed wah-wah electric guitars, drum kit, keyboards, and piano. Lemper’s phrasing is clean and soft, in an unhurried delivery content to dwell in the spaces between. Meanwhile, she reveals to herself that it’s not only the world that’s changing around us, as time alters us too. The waltz tempo buoying “In My Flame” is elegant, graceful, and deliberately imprecise rhythmically. The lyric juxtaposes present and future with a bittersweet instructive vision of the past. “Moving On” melds pop, blues, and jazz in a pianistic paean to the moment. The spectral, mysterious, luxuriant melody in “Magical Stone” recalls Kate Bush‘s harmonic formalism, though Lemper’s sung phrasing is resonant with her own signature vocal phrasing and playing style. Sung in French, “Envie d’Amour” weds sheeny, multi-textured electro-acoustic pop to inspired nouveau chanson. “Cry in the Dark” evolves from minimal, Rhodes- and guitar-driven jazz to shimmering, sophisticated, sensual pop. The set closes with “The Gift,” a transcendent ballad illustrated by piano, muted brass, and guitars. The protagonist’s journey through the confusion of her inner and outer opacity eventually introduces an open space in her heart where light appears, first in small shards. As confusion lessens, so does doubt, and possibility whispers itself into being. The future, informed by all of these stages, looms hopeful and attainable.

Time Traveler is a consciously constructed song cycle that not only reveals a dialogue between the contemporary artist and her younger self but reveals to the listener the wonder, empathy, and tenderness experienced by both parties.

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