Spur - Nowhereland (2015, Antime) [english review]

During 2011, in one of the indisputable centers, not only of contemporary electronica, but of music in general, Berlin, some friends, led by Martin Sheer, created the record label Antime. But, more than a simple label, Antime is a gathering of artists who, in one hand have a common goal, to create truly progressive and modern music, and in the other, are inspired by the same ideas, to engage with their art without the commercial entrenchments of the mainstream. Firstly I came in touch with Antime via their first collection, Antime 01, which is still available as a free download. Of course I suggest seizing the opportunity to listen to this gem

From 2011 until today, more than ten albums have been released in Antime, made by artists that mainly come from the world of experimental dance electronic music. But, the label has also become a home for a few interesting creators in the styles of trip hop, electropop, post rock, even progressive rock. One of the most notable and fresh Antime’s releases is André Wittmann’s debut, who is better known by his artistic nickname, Spur. Wittmann firstly appeared as drummer of the band pandoras.box, led by Martin Sheer. His playing style is influenced both by rock and jazz music. In his first solo album, called Nowhereland and released in March 2015, Spur, without abandoning his drum set, creates advanced techno music.

In this case, we use the term "techno", not for dance electronica that ends up predicted and boring, but in order to define this whole challenge of combining music and technology. Indeed, the fundamental mentality in Nowhereland is the search for a unique and uncompromising sound. The structure of most compositions is characterized by acuity, also a strong influence of the free jazz rhythmology is evident, an element which reminds us that Wittmann is basically a drummer. In fact, orchestration is often enriched by well-played drums and other percussion. 

All these jazz references are integrated in an electronic context, which frequently brings to mind a trippier version of Bonobo’s music, for example in the track Clockwork. But, more than downtempo electronica, Spur seems to be related with Moderat’s melodic experimentation, as we can discern in Miracles.  At the same time, the samples are “cut and sewn” in the mindset of instrumental hip hop and particularly in the song Flavoured Green they are beautifully entangled with the ethereal female vocals of Lucie De Lay.

However, Spur’s first complete recording, to some extent, lacks consistency.  Wittmann organizes his compositions based mainly on improvisation and he tries to establish an eclectic and personal style.  While the solutions that he proposes for  his complex electro-jazz equations are very interesting, sometimes he gets lost in a maze of aimless digital details and noises, as in the track All These Things. After proving that he has creatively assimilated the essence of jazz, why doesn’t he adopt, for example, a nice wind instrument or an analog piano?

But the factor that adds an unquestionable value to Spur’s music is a deep emotion, a mood of melancholy, which does not slide into depression. Here, the influence of Thom Yorke’s rich and multifarious activity is apparent, either via Radiohead, or as a solo artist, or as a guest vocalist in Modeselektor’s albums. A characteristic example is the homonymous track Nowhereland, the only composition of the album with lyrics, which are sung by Martin Sheer. Eventually, Spur becomes familiar with this loneliness, which finally transforms into a liberating feeling, full of creativity. Thereby, in the stunning track called Dancing At A Corner, we vividly imagine a lonely dancer loses his/herself in this combination of melancholy and experimentation, of jazz polyrhythm and techno futurism. 

In conclusion, Nowhereland is a very interesting debut, a real listening adventure. Many fresh ideas are exposed, some of them are excellent, but a sense of fullness is still missing. I am sure that Wittman’s next personal release will be a step towards artistic integration and maturity.

Merci à Nicolette, pour son aide à la traduction de cette présentation. :-)

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