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Otto A Totland


(Sonic Pieces; US: 18 Feb 2014; UK: Import)

Although I prefer to hear most albums through my audiophile grade HiFi, there’s something magical about Pinô when listened through a pair of headphones. I often feel as if I am eavesdropping on a late-night recording session in Nils Frahm’s studio, my shadow just around the corner, my presence over Totland’s shoulder, my ear on the piano’s wood. I pick up on each delicate hammer touch, each intricate move of its innards, each barely audible breath of the human behind it. How can these sounds flow through those hands? And like a lost apparition, I float through the strings and the hammers, through keys and through fingers, through cryptic synaptic responses, into something that’s someone calls “Otto”, into something I cannot explain.

With eighteen fragile solo piano compositions, indeed recorded at Frahm’s Durton Studios in Berlin, Totland’s Pinô instantly propels to the top of my all-time favorite albums. I knew this from my very first listen, and I know it even now, upon its 100th repeat play. Of course I am familiar with Totland’s past works. There is his work with Serein’s label boss Huw Roberts as Nest, with 2010’s Retold prominently appearing on my Best of 2010 list. And then, of course, there is the celebrated Deaf Center project, with which Otto Totland and Erik Skodvin (also known as Svarte Greiner and owner of Miasmah) delighted the loyal fans and followers of Type with 2005’s Pale Ravine, 2006’s Levende, and 2011’s Owl Splinters, all of which are highly recommended. But besides the modern classical, cinematic, and dark ambient compositions in these two projects, apparently sir Totland also plays, plays well, and oh, so spellbinding and superb.

From these words you can tell that I am absolutely in love with Pinô. And I am especially excited to see this gem appear on Sonic Pieces, a Berlin-based label that has charmed with every single release, from handmade packaging to an exquisite curation by Monique Recknagel. You barely can go wrong with Sonic Pieces, even if you pre-ordered every upcoming LP right now. Search my past reviews, and you will find many musings on almost every release. I want to sincerely thank Monique, Nils, and Otto for sharing this music with me and the world. It’s more than a score to my daily commute. It’s really the soundtrack to my life. Pinô is a gorgeous full-length as a solo debut, and an absolute must.


Remaining anonymous is important to the founder of Headphone Commute, one of the most influential independent magazines covering electronic, experimental and instrumental music. This anonymity affords the mysterious 'HC' the luxury of staying true to the writer's opinion and acts as a safeguard to prevent the ego getting in the way of the one thing that counts: music. After 6 years, 500 reviews and over 200 interviews, HC decided to expand and contribute to PopMatters. HC is currently an official media partner for Songkick Detour, Decibel Festival and Mixcloud. You can follow more musings and finds on Facebook or Twitter @H_C

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