Otto A Totland


There were a few things that I had to do this past weekend. Pay my bills, vacuum the rug in my studio, and oh, I absolutely had to write a review of Otto A. Totland‘s Pinô, because A) it finally came out on Sonic Pieces a few days ago [even though I’ve listened to the album for the past three months]; and B) I already scheduled an interview to be published with this talented Norwegian musician for Monday morning. But forcing inspiration and the right mood for words is futile. Instead I ended up running around New York city, picking up some rare yellow tea and yes, another pair of headphones, and by the time the Sunday night rolled in, I found myself drowning out the cheer of the Super Bowl with anything but soft piano keys. Then Monday came around… And it snowed… Finally things made sense, as serendipity unfolded on its own. And now I find myself walking through snow-covered streets, and Pinô is more beautiful than ever… Sometimes I should just let life unfold…

Although I prefer to hear most albums through my audiophile grade hifi, there’s something magical about Pinô when listen through a pair of headphones. I often feel as if I am eavesdropping on a late night recording session in Nils Frahm‘s studio, my shadow just around the corner, my presence over Totland’s shoulder, my ear on the piano’s wood. I pick up on each delicate hammer touch, each intricate move of its innards, each barely audible breath of the human behind. How can these sounds flow through those hands? And like a lost apparition I float through the strings and the hammers, through keys and through fingers, through cryptic synaptic responses, into something that’s someone calls “Otto”, into something I can not explain.

“Each silence leads into quick flutters of keys, preparing the listener for a vast terrain of giddy beauty, bleak depths, and true contentedness. Pino quickly recalls deep winter; in front of a fireplace for days on end, you lose how far along you’ve ventured into the [album] without any idea how far is left to go. The experience feels inevitable, with no other option but to curl up somewhere cozy and appreciate the sense of timelessness that Totland has created.”

With eighteen fragile solo piano compositions, indeed recorded at Frahm’s Durton Studios in Berlin, Totland’s Pinô instantly propels to the top of my all time favourite albums. I knew this from my very first listen, and I know it even now, upon its hundredth repeat play. Of course I am familiar with Totland’s past works. There is his work with Serein‘s label boss Huw Roberts as Nest, with Retold (2010) prominently appearing on Headphone Commute’s Best of 2010. And then, of course, there is the celebrated Deaf Center project, with which Otto Totland and Erik Skodvin (also known as Svarte Greiner and owner of Miasmah) delighted the loyal fans and followers of Type with Pale Ravine (2005), Levende (2006) and Owl Splinters (2011) — all highly recommended. But besides the modern classical, cinematic and dark ambient compositions in these two projects, apparently sir Totland also plays, plays well, and oh, so spellbinding and superb!

From these words you can tell that I am absolutely in love with Pinô! And I am especially excited to see this gem appear on Sonic Pieces, a Berlin-based label that has charmed with every single release, from hand-made packaging to an exquisite curation by Monique Recknagel. You barely can go wrong with Sonic Pieces, even if you pre-ordered every upcoming LP right now. Search these pages, and you will find my musings on almost every release. I want to sincerely thank Monique, Nils and Otto for sharing this music with me and the world. It’s more than a score to my daily commute – it’s really the soundtrack to my life! Pinô is a gorgeous full-length as a solo début – an absolute must!!!

Be sure to read my Interview with Otto A. Totland where he reveals that some pieces were completely improvised during the recording!


Words by HC