We Were Never One: a powerful and sprawling epic soundtrack exploring loss, extinction and human connection to nature

The Star Pillow, We Were Never One, Italy, Dissipatio, DISS008 CD (2022)

Solo project of guitarist Paolo Monti, The Star Pillow is a drone ambient project based around exploring the relationship between sound, space and human emotions. The Star Pillow has had several album releases over the past 10 years since it formed but “We Were Never One” appears to be the project’s first release on the Dissipatio label. These recordings are usually associated with a visual performance such as a dance or a film, and this recent album is no different, being a soundtrack for a dance performance by Austrian choregrapher Karin Pauer for four performers with accompaniment from The Star Pillow and visual work from another artist.

The album runs close to 70 minutes, so it is a very long and sprawling work of often beautiful and pensive sonic immersion that invites contemplation on its themes of loss, human interconnectedness with the natural world and that world’s degradation with the possibility of it becoming extinct altogether. Individual tracks may seem very long, tiresome and drawn out to those who haven’t seen the dance performances and perhaps the entire work would have been better served with a DVD release of the original performance along with the musical and visual art accompaniment. The tracks follow a definite narrative of catastrophe, a reaction of horror to the disaster as it happens, and then despair followed by a mix of hope and acceptance that what is to happen will do so, and we must be prepared for it.

Even without the dance performances and the visual art, this work is very powerful with a complex emotional range. Volume dynamics are immense here from huge blaring sounds to passages of quiet delicate drone almost fading into a vast space. You can really feel that Monti has put his heart and soul into this recording which sweeps you up in its embrace and takes you along right to the bittersweet end.