The holidays are upon us; some might say they’ve been here for a while. The next month will bring a mad rush of shopping, cooking and company. It’s the perfect time to invest in Otto A. Totland‘s music. Concerned with “the constant movement towards fast paced, polluted lives”, the pianist offers an aural contrast: personal, meditative, and sparse. The beauty of Totland’s solo compositions first became apparent on Pinô back in the winter of 2014; the follow-up possesses a similar beauty. We are the lost; how will we slow down?
Ironically, the album’s tempos are swifter than one might guess, especially on preview track “vates”. The key to slowing down may not be the elimination of speed, but of clutter. The album sounds like the trees after the leaves have fallen, revealing a different sort of beauty, characterized by its core. The title track demonstrates that great feeling can be generated by unadorned notes, their only decoration a few creaks and breaths and the sound of clinking glasses. This is all I need, thinks Totland, and by extension, it’s all we need as well. In like fashion, if we strip away the electronic devices, the social media, the televisions and malls, will we be naked? Or will we begin to recognize our core selves, freed from distraction, comprised of thought, emotion, and spirit?
The calmest tracks reveal deep melancholy. The artist lives by the sea, surrounded by natural beauty, yet the tendrils of rapidity reach him even there. His cherished respites are to visit the ocean and to sit at his piano, improvising and composing. He often seems lost in thought. If he writes a requiem for the lost, it is only in hopes that they might be found. Fortunately, he’s not alone. From slow food to the mindfulness movement, others share similar concerns. The fear of the fast-paced is that if they ever stop, they will miss something ~ a tweet, a party, a promotion. The fear of the slow-paced is that if they race through life, they will miss something more important ~ an appreciation of what they already have. And here, in the middle of all the bustle, a quiet pianist sits at the ivory keys, choosing the notes of “wait”. The title is reflected in the spaces between the notes. Even as the pace increases, it pauses, as if to make sure it’s on the right path. From this one might glean a map for healthy living. The fullest piece, “enter”, springs from this ground, as if to say that we are filled not by quantity, but by quality. If so, despite its quietude, The Lost is the aural equivalent of a full meal. (Richard Allen)