The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today […] In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal. Guttorm Fløistad
Perhaps better known as one half of electronic/ambient duo Deaf Center with Erik K Skodvin, Otto Andreas Totland is also a modern classical composer and pianist based in Norway. Pinô, his 2014 début solo album for the Berlin-based record label Sonic Pieces, introduced a touching collection of short stripped-down vignettes for piano. Released on 1 December 2017 last on the same imprint, the pianist’s new opus The Lost continues on the same intimate and acoustic path.
Over the last few decades, emerging concepts such as the Slow Movement as well as several philosophers and journalists have been gradually challenging our relationship with time and how it is affecting a multitude of disciplines. The Slow Food movement for instance was founded in the mid-1980s in Italy as an anti-consumerism movement promoting sustainability, local food and traditional cuisine. Along similar lines, Slow Television is another idea that was popularised from the end of the 2000s onwards by Norwegian Public TV Network NRK. Some of the programmes broadcast on the channel included a real time seven-hour train journey between Bergen and Oslo in 2009, or a five-and-a-half-day-long ferry journey along the coast of Norway in 2011.
The concept goes of course against all the established standards of live television broadcasting. Instead of framing an event with a dramatic storyline, background music and constant editing to sustain the viewer’s attention at all times, the programmes simply adopted a linear storytelling model to present the events in real time from start to finish – as slow and uneventful it might sound at times. Proving all critics wrong, the programmes attracted huge audiences.
In musical terms, Otto A Totland’s mindful approach is comparable and could be associated with a new “Slow Music” trend – not slow in terms of tempo but in the way the musician plays with a quasi-classical-era mindset that ignores technology and is aligned to a different temporal outlook.
The first and title-track immediately sets the tone – and the pace – for the entire album: reflective and uncluttered with a touch of melancholy, as if to ponder on what it is we have “lost” in the process.
With modern recording techniques and an infinite electronic palette at their disposal, contemporary musicians are often tempted to layer, edit and mix their music in the studio – most of the time to reflect a frantic lifestyle dominated by always-on technology. Somewhat swimming against that dominant tide, Otto A Totland reverts to a more natural approach which is oblivious to the external hustle and bustle and constant distraction.
Halfway through the album and reminiscent of a Baroque passacaglia, “Greiner” sends the listener a few centuries back in time. Yet, blending composed with semi-improvised pieces, The Lost is ultimately a contemporary music LP. It was captured live in one take in Nils Frahm’s Durton studio “with the best vintage recording technique you can find” on a gorgeous sounding piano.
A quiet questioning of the times we live in, the music on The Lost was also beautifully handcrafted down to every small detail including a “handmade cardboard/textile packaging, embossed and numbered” for the LP print.