For the first time in eight long years, Low Distance reunites Erik K Skodvin and Otto A Totland. Since Deaf Center’s sophomore, Owl Splinters (2011), Otto has released two solo piano albums, while Erik, working under both his own name and as Svarte Greiner, has been following darker, more experimental trails. The three-day recording session took place in 2017, was mixed in Stockholm, and then gestated in Erik’s home studio. The music is similar to fresh air in open woodland, but strange, out-of-focus animals populate its forest, and some of its creatures only come out when the moon is glowing and the light has dropped to an indigo shade.
Deaf Center’s third album roams between stripped-back sounds and deeper textures, just as thinner branches will engage with the hulking density of its home tree. Arriving on Sonic Pieces on March 22, Low Distance creeps around, covered in a dark beauty and an enveloping mystery, remaining for the most part grounded, sticking low to the soil and clinging to its slender notes. The piano is the sound of purity, growing like a Virginia Creeper, and its melodies flourish after an initial spell of timidity. Flitting between earthy soundscapes and mysterious, short-lived melodies, Deaf Center’s twilit atmospheres contain a stark and refreshing beauty.
The notes move between the monstrous and the fragile, mimicking the mortal dance between predator and prey, at some points becoming balletic and elegant, and at others noticeably bristling, straying towards violence.
Electronic squeals and screams light up the evening, but shadows cloak them. The piano is a steadying, almost reassuring presence. The notes gradually take over the space, stretching out thanks to a thin tail of reverb.
This time around, the pair have produced a subtle record, one that cracks like gingerbread in the hand. Whereas Owl Splinters could’ve been the soundtrack to a haunted house, with its creepy atmosphere Blair Witching in the corners, its blunt force, in-your-face dynamism, and its underlying, eerie menace populating the album’s core, the music here is softer, more a fairy tale and less a psychological horror. It feels concentrated.
Low Distance is a grower, and perhaps the most thoughtful record in their discography. Immensely detailed with its extreme close ups, and rich enough to unearth something fresh with every listen, it’s another record of the highest quality.