The apparition emerges out of the choked fog, through the bleak, chrome coloured notes of the piano, emitting its dull, slightly thicker sound as if it were buried six feet under. It’s certainly cold enough to mingle with the black soil, but the music softens the hardened earth, revealing the seeds of the spring to come, sleeping underneath a harsh exterior.
Halfway through the season of winter, buried under the prospect of a cold, uninviting home and the silence of the falling snow, comes a warmer melody, the fire that lights the way and warms the body.
His piano compositions sprawl out succinctly, sparsely, with plenty of space to breathe in the cold air. It could be a dedication to the landscape of Norway, the forests and fjords lit up by the sunshine. Shrouds of mist make their way into the music, carving out their mark, claiming back the land, a land stranded of people. Through the rear-view mirror, not even the antlers of a red deer are visible. Any kind of presence is merely suggestion, by way of a sudden movement in the swirling smoke.
Pino is Totland’s first full-length album, but I’m sure listeners will be very familiar with his music, being one half of Deaf Center. With only the piano for company, much of the ominous darkness has disappeared, but the black, icy core is still there. It’s as if the strings are in hiding, making their home in an elaborate cave system. The threatening, eerie omen that the stark, grinding strings left behind has subsided into the mist, but the atmosphere is a frosty one, painfully melancholic and a touch uneasy.
Totland’s piano is given much more room, glowing with a soft light in the midst of a brutal snowstorm. The notes border on desolation and fatigue; a failing lighthouse that can no longer keep watch over the vessels skirting the sea. The windows have frosted over, the first victim to the merciless Norwegian winter that has inevitably arrived. Embellished melodies play over the repeating notes, the history of the place rekindled by the music.
Pino is pale warm, recalling the bite of winter, its icy depths and snowy pines, but it can also be a season frail in its fragility. A thousand bare branches hang together, forsaken by their friends. The white mountains are simultaneously robed by an avalanche of snow and a billion tiny snowflakes, individual imprints, delicate webs of white. Totland’s pieces are fragile fragments, short in length so that their beauty can be preserved. Nothing survives out in the cold for very long. The music lands inside the palm, but dissolves on impact. If any heat is detected, the track fades away before it can begin to circulate.
Here comes the sliver of sun, melting away the ice with a warmer, repeated phrase. The sound of a crow breaks the melody with an abrasive caw, the rough, stark sound as sharp as the narrow, cold branches and the blade of the claw scarring the composition as well as the rough. frozen bark.
Despite the cold, the season can be a very quiet, still time of year. The temperature drops, but it is heart-warming to walk amid nature’s graveyard.