Norwegian, Trondheim-based guitarist Petter Vågan began his musical career as an experimental guitarist, leading outfits like the trio Marvel Machine, collaborating with sonic explorers like trumpeter Axel Dörner and hyper-pianist Andrea Neumann, and as co-founding the now-defunct label Gigafon (with drummer Gard Nilssen). In the middle of the last decade, Vågan changed courses and worked as the leader-singer-songwriter of the electro-pop band The Fjords. Now, the circle ends with this release of «Dead Pixel» EP, the first album under his name, where he melts chamber ballads with electro-acoustic drones, performed with close comrades from the local renowned jazz scene – including brother, double bass player Ole Morten Vågan, sax player Eirik Hegdal and trumpeter Eivind Lønning, plus a string quartet.
Petter Vågan uses the term «Dead Pixel» (a black dot that may appear in photos by digital cameras) as a metaphor for depression, a state of mind of the narrator throughout his goings. The title song takes the listener through a photo album describing the position of the black dot superimposed on important personal events, and sets the dark, melancholic atmosphere of the EP: «A compulsory watermark, on a photo-op in June / Just an error with the hardware, there’s nothing I can do / Dead pixel». The beautiful trumpet solo of Lønning and the string quartet arrangement intensify the atmosphere of this song. Vågan’s acoustic guitar sketches the folky drones, but this acoustic vein is embraced by imaginative and subtle sonic adventures. he is a unique storyteller, delivering his nuanced songs patiently with his unassuming, gently restrained emotive vocals, in a manner that brings to mind the experimental works of David Sylvian.
The other three songs continue with distinct and unconventional stories. He opens the album with «Micro Macro (at the press conference)», telling about the power and magic that lies in language, and how ideas and abstract concepts can grow stronger than the planetary system. «HyperGenesis» tells the story of our species’ cognitive revolution («Confined to matter / We broke the chains / By imagination / We could explore infinite planes / Sculpting multi-futures/ From sketches drawn eyes shut…»). The last «Tun State» tackles mankind’s relationship with the water bear, from the water bear’s point of view («Try every tool in the box / This is one thing you can’t steal / Let the world pass me by / In a deep dreamless sleep») and concludes a set of four fascinating songs that offer original perspectives of a troubled and highly sensitive mind.
Petter Vågan (v, g, p, synth, elec), Eirik Hegdal (s), Eivind Lønning (tp), Ole Morten Vågan (b), Erik Nylander (dr), Tor Haugerud (dr), Tomas Järmyr (cymbal drones), Egil Kalman (modular synth), Ola Lindseth (vio), Oliver Leonard Bailey Dyb (vio), Mathieu Roussel (viola), Joakim Munkner (c)