Otto A Totland

The Lost

I’ve been patiently waiting for a new album from Otto A. Totland for nearly three years now. Ever since he revealed his solo piano compositions with Pinô back in 2014, Totland’s delicate touch has had an immense impact on my life. Suddenly, I understood that the original aim of being an expert pianist was not a necessary task to properly express yourself, and that sensibility and emotion may best be said through simple pieces. [That is not to say that Totland is not a proficient player] Indeed, Totland was a true inspiration to my own solo piano works, and it was, in fact, his music that finally motivated me to hit that record button. So when The Lost arrives, I glance at the album from a distance before I listen. I need a proper setting, I need a proper mood, to actively consume. At last, I find a quiet hour in my life, I put my headphones on and close my eyes. But something else entirely happens…

In the last year, I have become incredibly intimate with the sounds coming out of my piano. I have always paid close attention to the instrument, but the process of recording pushed my senses even more. Placing the microphones close to the strings, and playing with the headphones on, I began to experience the sound from a different perspective. Suddenly it wasn’t coming from the front of my presence but was happening inside my head. The background sounds, amplified by the gear, found their own space. I heard the dampers lifting off the strings. I heard the shuffling of my feet. I heard my own breathing. I heard the siren far away. I’ve even heard a song of a blackbird in the night. I’ve recorded with it all, and it became a part of me. So when The Lost came on I felt a little dizzy with the sound. I heard the music as if it was my own. It wasn’t Otto playing… it was me…

There’s a lightness felt while listening, and yet an overwhelming feeling of melancholy and nostalgia captures you through the length of the album. It could be described as pure timelessness captured with the best vintage recording technique you can find, opening up to a new wider scope and detail while keeping the intimacy as if it would be played right beside you.”

This, out of body, out of mind experience, already left an enormous bearing on my soul. For the first time in many decades, I was truly transported into Totland’s world. I don’t even know how to describe it in words. Sure, I’ve closed my eyes before and felt the cold of Iceland, or the warmth of a tropical beach. I’ve gravitated through the galaxies and explored a many worlds. But here I was listening with Totland’s ears. Here, my hands were playing what his mind has said. And with this sense came all the feelings. The ones that simply don’t have names. The very same ones that I’ve felt when I’ve attempted to express in music because another language simply lacked the terms. Here, Totland’s sentiments, his moods, and spirits were my own. And this is something I can not dispose of lightly. It is a happening I can’t deny with words.

Leaves are falling and times are changing. The horizon seems dark. Otto seems to capture both the questions and feelings we have about our surroundings. Not judging them, but easing us into a mindset that feels hopeful. A sort of quiet relief that things might actually work out no matter how dark it can look.”

Totland’s The Lost travels through my being for only 42 minutes, filling the empty space of “me” (that space that’s left when you can’t zoom in any closer) with fifteen gorgeous tracks. And even though each piece subsists for only two or three minutes, each one comes with its universe of a unique creation. Although I’ve heard many of Totland’s melodies in the past, especially as his work with Erik Skodvin on a beloved project they call Deaf Center (I can’t believe that Pale Ravine is from 2005!), I am especially drawn towards his solo piano works, for many reasons, not the least of which is what I’ve said above. Perhaps, to you, this seems like an unconventional writeup on yet another beautiful Sonic Pieces release, but I just wanted to convey on what this music meant to me. I hope you will connect as well…


Words by HC