Norwegian pianist Otto A Totland’s 2014 release Pinô is a splendid collection of eighteen delicate and intimate compositions, improvisations and short vignettes on the piano expressed as restrained miniatures. From the very first track “Open”, Pinô literally opens like a vintage music box, playing into a slow and exquisite meditation. Better known for his collaboration with ambient/modern classical duo Deaf Centre or for his work with Huw Roberts as Nest, this is Otto A Totland’s first full-length solo recording for the Berlin-based Sonic Pieces record label.

Otto A Totland - Pinô (2014)
Otto A Totland – Pinô (2014)

Pinô includes some wonderful melodic themes that are deliberately understated. Whereas other musicians might be tempted to develop and arrange the songs into longer pieces or variations, the serene conciseness of the music reinforces its overall impact. And the careful listener will soon realise that some of these short themes quickly turn into magical and addictive little earworms which repeat themselves naturally.

Texture and mood prevail over ego and performance throughout Pinô so much so that the video for a gorgeous theme like “solêr” sees Otto A Totland “perform” with his back to the camera.

This total self-effacement in favour of “the sound of music” also betrays an absolute reverence for the piano as a physical and mechanical object. The recording which incorporates the muted sound of the piano keys, hammers and strings as well as ambient noises (chairs creaking, musician breathing, birds outside) evokes of course the music of pianist Nils Frahm, especially recordings like Wintermusik, Felt and Screws. As a matter of fact, Pinô was recorded, mixed and mastered by Nils Frahm in his own Durton studio.

Quiet, minimalist and utterly “pianistic”, Otto A Totland’s “Pinô” is an impressive début.