For Berlin’s Jan Fabritius, the title of his latest album, CHAMBRE NOIRE – French for ‘Dark Room’ – is double-edged. On one hand, it’s a metaphor for his debilitating black moods after too many setbacks in too short of a time. On the other, it’s a direct reference to his favourite wine bar in Paris, where, over two years, he spent joyous hours and nights escalating his fascination for both natural wine and the French language alike. There’s darkness and then there’s darkness: Fabritius knows both well. Fabritius had retreated to Paris in 2017 after managing Berlin’s renowned Calyx Mastering studios for five years - regular clients include Caribou, Moderat, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Richie Hawtin - and he subsequently enjoyed an intensely creative period in the French capital, releasing music under the name Colourful. Having returned to Berlin in 2019, however, to work for indie label City Slang – he describes it now as “like a second home and family” – he set out to release a new solo album. In order to avoid mixing business and pleasure too much, he also set up a new label, EBP, to release it. According to Fabritius, “I tried my best to take something positive and valuable out of the Hades of emotions I found myself in, so CHAMBRE NOIRE isn’t an album that finds me wallowing in negativity. Instead it’s about hope and overcoming obstacles in life which at the time seem insurmountable. It’s about making peace with one’s own vulnerability.” As he sings on first single, ‘Everybody Knows’, an impressive, almost daunting picture of his inner struggle that he calls “a muted yelp for hope, and a concession to its absence on the brink of a breakup,” “Lesson learned - a knife in my head / Thank you for the time outside / Looking for some late advice now / Catch me falling into blatant demise.” On the cryptic ‘IWYR’, too, he begins by announcing “I know that she’s the one” before taking us on an emotional journey through anxious verses and stunningly melodic refrains, peaking in an anti-guitar solo nodding to no-wave king Arto Lindsay. This isn’t a purely introspective record, however, with, for instance, Fabritius taking a powerful stand in the gender debate on Eyes So Round, a candid love letter – audaciously reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s monumental ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ – by a songwriter who’s not afraid of picking up the baton from the greats: “Male and female won’t quite suffice / Never has / Suck it up.” Nonetheless, as anyone investigating the album’s lyrics will detect, there’s no doubting that CHAMBRE NOIRE has been written with one person in mind. It is, Fabritius confesses, an album that emerged from “the gloomy space between hanging on to and letting go of the love of your life… or at least the person you perceived as the love of your life”. That it ends with ‘Exit The Void’, an instrumental meditation that radiates hope while honouring his recent journey, confirms the success of his therapeutic production process. CHAMBRE NOIRE – EPB Records’ first release – was recorded and mixed by Francesco Donadello at his museum-like Vox-Ton studio in Berlin Weißensee, and mastered from tape by Bo Kondren at Calyx, to which Fabritius returned to cut the vinyl for this special release himself.
The album’s vinyl artwork, designed by Stephane Argillet Stereovoid, is a unique piece of art, too, with its multitude of layers offering an interactive, self-referential medium of abstract poetry, both literally and visually.