The quieter half of the Deaf Center duo has just released his debut piano solo. The album (one of the best in years) was curated by Sonic Pieces.
If you have ever heard Deaf Center, you know very well that one can be scared when sailing in Erik Skodvin's little boat through rigurous storms on massive drone oceans. So when it occurs a moment of peace in this kind of strong ambience (a small piano melody on the top of the black water), that becomes meaningful and important. It really was high time for Otto A Totland's debut to be released.
The outcome is segmented into eighteen small pieces, but it's more like one complete and uninterrupted set with moderate melodies and gentle playing technique with no traces of mannerism or straining. It reminds instead to the mysterious world of storybooks from our constantly fading childhood. At other points, it gives you a glass of excellent red wine under a magnificent winter sky with still, blinking stars.
Even though Pinô is a classical piano solo, it is in so close neighbourhood with ambient music that it sometimes becomes ambient music. The material was recorded at Nils Frahm's studio. Technically speaking, it of course gives an impeccable audio atmosphere to the album. On the other hand, however, we can also recognise the German maestro's influences: Pinô speaks very much the same language as Felt did in 2011. The mechanical noises of playing the instrument, the cracking of the studio room floor, the raven in the window, the slow buzz of the heating, and soft caughing - these all form part of the Pinô ambience. Totland literally lets you inside his privacy. And he offers honest, unconditional love.
Watch the teaser video I made for the label!
Pinô is your first solo album. Tell us about the creative process.
Many of the pieces collected on Pinô have been in the making for a long time. Some of them were composed many years ago. Other pieces are improvised. It was all recorded in Nils Frahm's Durton studio in 3 days.
If I'm right, you recorded the album on the same piano as heard on Wintermusik.
Yes, that is correct. I really love playing on that piano. It has this amazing resonance and warm sound.
How was the co-operation with Nils Frahm?
Nils was very much involved in the process indeed. It's a privilege to work with Nils. You know you're in good hands when he is by your side. I'm really happy he gave me the opportunity to record Pinô at his studio. All mastering, mixing and effects was done at Durton.
You have recorded two albums and some EPs with Erik Skodvin. How does your pianissimo style fit to the massive drone landscapes of Deaf Center?
Erik and me do a lot of improvisations together. I really enjoy playing within Erik's drone landscapes. We have very different approaches - but when the two styles fuse together, they compliment each other really well, I think. Doing Pale Ravine together was more computers and sequencers. Now it's more acoustic and improvised.
Pinô is now out on Sonic Pieces - how could you describe the atmosphere at the label?
Both Monique and Erik are very close friends of mine. So both Miasmah and Sonic Pieces are my "home" labels. It felt natural for me to release this album on Sonic Pieces. I'm grateful that Monique wanted it, too. For me, Sonic Pieces is authentic quality. Monique puts such care into the special editions. Each and every one is a piece of handy-craft art in itself. I really resonate with both the artists and music Monique is working with.
Your album is, I think, a typical born-at-home album with its intimate feeling and miniature sounds. How do you create this delicate world during a live performance?
Yeah, that is very true. It is a born-at-home album. Actually, I haven't performed this live yet, except a small live introduction at Sonic Pieces. I'm not sure how I will do this live - I don't think I'll use any effects, although we did use some on the album. For live performance, I would use an upright piano with felt. Mics close to the hammers and keys.
What are you up for now? Do you already have some plans for the future?
I haven't made many plans. I do have a full time job here in Norway, and that restricts my possibilities for live performances. But I will have a three weeks tour in Japan with Erik and Monique in April. Really looking forward to that.