As half of Deaf Center, Otto A Totland is known for producing dark ambience, suffused with a modern compositional bent. Solo album Pinô is an entirely different beast. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to call it a beast; it’s a dust mode, a snowflake, a shift in the wind. These 18 piano miniatures drift by in a space of 42 minutes, leaving the listener calm, nourished, and at peace.
One hears the composer shifting and breathing, the ivories rising and falling, the wood creaking and adjusting to the cold. In January, much of Norway is covered in snow, while the inward areas freeze in an icy grip. Totland uses the piano to convey a sense of winter, but a benign winter, one is which the larders are stuffed and everyone is safe. The spaces between the notes are often greater than one would expect, reflecting the great expanses of frozen terrain; but when the notes are clustered together, they sound like fat flurries at the freezing point. The more languid tracks (for example, “Aquet”), fall into the realm of ambient music more than that of modern composition, as the notes are used as texture, blue on white. But when themes emerge, they can be memorable, never more so than on the closing track, boasting the plain name, “Closer”.
The album unfolds as one piece. One can imagine the composer recording it in a single take as a log crackles in the fire and perhaps a cat cozies up to the hearth. Totland doesn’t seem to be dreaming of spring; he’s content in the moment, in the season, in the slowing and stalling of outer movement. All necessary preparations have been made. If one is to venture outside, it will be to greet neighbors and to share a cup of akvavit. The salmon grow sluggish in the streams; the buhund dreams of play. The composer closes the cover and reaches for his coat. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 31 January