Few singers enjoy the incredible talent that Ute Lemper does, and her sensational ability to generate smooth melodies from behind the microphone is exploited for all that it’s worth in her single “Time Traveler,” which is out now and getting a lot of buzz everywhere at the moment. “Time Traveler” is built around the enigmatic poetry delivered to us by Lemper in what amounts to a half-whispered harmony that begs us to come closer and study the textured instrumentation supporting it. She channels legends of jazz’s iconic past but never spends too much time looking in the rearview mirror in this single, and it’s no wonder why it’s bringing her as much attention as it has been this month.
The grooves are as much of a star in this song as the vividly mixed vocal track is, and Ute Lemper wastes no time before opening the floodgates on a thick bassline that will eventually suffocate everything in the single with its unmatched girth. Try as they may, the drums are never able to battle their way through the decadent sonic ribbonry rendered from the harmony between her voice and the melodic foundation here, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the percussion is buried by it in the master mix.
Lemper approaches the verses with a very conservative attitude in “Time Traveler,” and though her singing is pendulous and patient, there’s an underlying sense of urgency that is propelled by the bass parts from beginning to end here. This urgency influences the mood surrounding the narrative in the song, but it never affects how she’s dispatching the words. She’s cool, calm, and collected in this track, and arguably sounding more in her element than she has in any of the other material that she’s released to date. There’s not a speck of hesitance in her execution; if anything, she’s giving off swagger with every beat she rides in this song.
I get the feeling in “Time Traveler” that Lemper isn’t afraid of exploring her emotional depth in the studio, and that adds to her artistic persona in the grander scheme of things. So many of her contemporaries aren’t comfortable getting intimate with us in their lyrics, let alone opening themselves up to the notion of making a single that is as brimming with emotional vulnerability as it is pop hooks, but that’s hardly the case with this young woman. She’s not going to let anything hold her back, and this single goes a long way to solidifying her place in the multitier hierarchy of the jazz underground.
“Time Traveler” features a familiar confidence from its composer, but its highbrow stylization is anything but ordinary. Ute Lemper has wowed critics with her work in recent years, both at home and abroad, and on the heels of her breakout moment, she’s debuting a single in 2023 that fits in as well on a nightclub soundtrack as it does the ambient playlist of a curious jazz aficionado. The sky is the limit for this talented performer, and my gut tells me that this won’t be the last time that I’m writing about her mesmerizing style of music.