Otto Andreas Totland is a Norwegian self-taught pianist and electronic musician also performing under the Nest moniker or as half of the Deaf Center electronic duo with Erik K Skodvin. Released on the excellent Berlin-based boutique label Sonic Pieces on 26 November 2021 last as a download, CD and limited Vinyl edition with handmade textile artwork, Companion concludes a trilogy of stripped-down modern classical vignettes for solo piano initiated seven years ago with (the hugely successful) Pinô in 2014, followed by The Lost in 2017.
Composed for the upright piano, Otto A Totland’s sparse and quiet music draws on a rich heritage of Norwegian folk music and songs as well as on a classical repertoire from the Romantic era. In that regards, it espouses the aesthetics of previous centuries, of a pre-industrial age more in tune with the seasonal cycles of nature and governed by a different sense of time.
By “embracing the mechanical noises” of the hammers at all times, by dampening the strings with felt strips and making extensive use of the sustain pedal, Otto A Totland achieves a soft and floating zen-like serenity over 14 new solo piano compositions. Recorded on a vintage upright piano in Berlin’s Funkhaus Saal 3 (where German pianist Nils Frahm now has his headquarters), Companion features an omnipresent droning generated by low register chords. The musician even toys with harmonic overtones over long pauses on a track like “rose”, thus “finding more joy in a single sustaining string than the limitless impossibilities of the virtual”.
Like on his two previous recordings, this unhurried and selfless approach has the effect of constantly drawing the focus of listener onto the instrument as a warm and vibrant pulsating mechanism marking the passing of the present time.