Powderlike elegance covers each loop and facet of Paolo Monti’s newest as The Star Pillow, We Were Never One. As a soundtrack for a contemporary dance performance by Austrian choreographer, Karin Pauer, the sonic spaces it fills and the snaking shapes that follow lean in to the ideas of motion and finesse. Beyond how it works in conjunction with Pauer’s movements, We Were Never One is transfixing and moving in its own right with multi-hued landscapes filled with emotional grace and sweeping timbral arrangements.
We Were Never One opens with gentle atmospheric sounds. Birds chirp in the night and water flows softly into an unknown darkness on “Sounds of Extinction,” all of it swirling around like an enchanted dream. Monti builds electric mountains from guitars layered as though they’re sedimentary rock telling the story of this world. Distortion grinds away at the surface before being chased away, leaving dust hanging in the air like a silicate fog. Repeating melodies fold into themselves so the resonating undercurrent can find its way into the fire. It’s expressive music, forlorn and lost but not necessarily looking to be found.
At just under 70 minutes, We Were Never One is sprawling; an epic narrative that’s poignance grows with each track. Pensive chord progressions stretch across bowed strings on “The Death of Small Promises.” The wistful nature of each note is buoyed by the underlying drone and the way it feels as though it could break into pieces at any moment. “Ocean of Sadness” is maximal, loud. The abyss is coming for us all, but Montil crafts heavy yet emotive arrangements to seize every last moment before the final twilight. It’s corrosive and beautiful whereas the concise depths of “Bodies Tumbled Into Bodies” feel as though the heavy realizations have been stacked too high and the wires holding it all together are letting go.
I’ll admit I have not seen Karin Pauer’s dance performance that We Were Never One accompanies but based on the expansive aural terrain here it must be magical and imposing. In the dying moments of closer “You’ll Remember This Encounter Forever,” the fuzz is relentless and catharsis gives way to an impermanent truce. As the last notes echo into nothingness, Montil can breathe again and The Star Pillow goes quiet for another lengthy rest. We Were Never One is a memorable ride.