TheLetterElectronic Music Guide

Jan Wagner - Kapitel
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Probably to my own disservice I only find myself investigating the engineer on my fav albums when they release their own music, which is the case with Jan Wagner, the German producer whose hands have touched great works by Luke Slater, Answer Code Request and Marcel Dettmann in his capacity as engineer at Ostgut Ton.

Producing other artists is the best thing that could have happened to me. Every musician has a certain energy about them and a very specific approach to music. This energy, all the talks that we had while working together and the music that these artists brought to the table have had a huge influence on me. Producing other people broadens my own spectrum enormously and brings me to places that I would never be able to reach on my own.

— Jan Wagner

The astute among you may have noted that he also produced Diver, the Tobias Preisig album I reviewed recently.

Kapitel is actually Wagner's second album, following Nummern from 2018, and is considered a sequel of sorts, drawing a line under a challenging chapter in his life:

The tension and the pressure that I was dealing with back then had mostly dissolved along the way. You can still feel the reverberation of the “explosion” in the new material, but you are now floating through this strangely calming emptiness. This music is the moment of silence that follows a huge bang. It’s this millisecond of “nothingness” that Kapitel is about.

Jan Wagner

At just 28 minutes in length Kapitel really is a brief but wow does it pack emotion? Wrought from delicate piano chords and subtle melody it's a sincerely heartfelt statement. Wagner's writing process up to now has been to work from piano improvisations but, in contrast to Nummern where piano remained the prime instrument, Kapitel reveals a producer expanding his oeuvre with vibrant sounds, increased electronic input, drums and vocals, even phasing the piano out entirely on some tracks. Contrast is a key factor in the album's sequencing of tracks with an even ebb-and-flow of stirring passages balanced with quieter, introspective moments.

A good example is the transition between the sea of textures and double-tracked synthesiser at the end of Kapitel 27 bolted onto the skeletal piano chords that open Kapitel 25. Another sublime contrast is heard on Kapitel 30 with the (spoken) vocals of Rosa Anschu╠łtz (you may remember Kobosil's mix of her track Rigid) and her lovely European English accent which sprouts unexpectedly from a bare-bones bed of piano-chord saplings. Further, the flourish of synths that fill out the second half of the track leave the listener emotionally bereft.

Reducing track titles to numbers (as he did with Nummern) strips unintentional context and forces the listener to contemplate the music from their own perspective; essentially a classy way of circumventing the idea that instrumental music should always carry its own narrative. Free from cliché and open for interpretation, Kapitel is the soundtrack to an intensive meditation session.

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Listens: 20
  • Highlight: Kapitel 30
  • Label: Quiet Love Records
  • Release Date: 20th March 2020
Jan Wagner - Kapitel

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