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Luciano Cilio - Dialoghi del presente CD (album) cover


Luciano Cilio

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A most unsettling dream...

Luciano Cilio was a composer and musician from Naples on the far fringes of the RPI movement. He released one album of unique and minimalist avant-classical music with some RPI feel around the edges, but this is certainly not the kind of prog-rock most common at this site. I remember how excited my friend Ryan was when telling me about this album and after finally hearing it I understood why. It is one of those albums that is like a somehow pulls your consciousness away as you listen, it is a catalyst for reflection, somehow relaxing and unnerving simultaneously. The moods are mostly melancholic to me, although it may simply be amplifying my current state of mind. In any case, Cilio's amazing daydream was captured thank God, because he would not last. He took his own life a few years later.

As Ryan wrote in his bio for our site: "On the record, Luciano plays a range of instruments from the familiar guitars and piano to flute and bass. Also joining him are the celebrated percussionist Toni Esposito and session man Robert Fix. The record consists of acoustic pieces, slower experimental parts, and more complex, sophisticated ones as well. Luciano's attention to detail is known to haunt and inspire listeners with an attentive ear, as many note the intense focus he had on the emotional impact of each note." -Jimmy Row (Ryan)

The five pieces of this short album total only about 30 minutes but it works perfectly. Somewhere between the mystical musical flights of Claudio Rocchi, the classically inspired Basso, and the pure experimentalism of Battiato, Cilio's album is a classic. Primarily backed by softly strummed acoustic guitar and gorgeous piano waves, each song has numerous lovely sequences coming and going, cello and violin parts, oboe and French horn, saxophone, flute, and choir vocal crescendos. They are masterfully arranged and constructed even while they feel so free and unconventional. Hand percussion is lightly added to certain backgrounds though not in any traditional rock way, more like something you'd hear on a Popol Vuh album. "Primo Quadro Della Conoscenza" is the high point for me, when the strings well up and the wordless female vocals surround you and get louder, it is suffocating and yet glorious! This work will leave lovers of dreamy piano, such as myself, pretty much speechless. This is the kind of music that holds onto you forever, which will reward again and again, always giving the listener something more each time.

I consider it a tragedy that this man didn't have time to give us more, his album is one of the finest late 1970s fringe RPI gems. The album was reissued on CD a few years ago with a different cover and name, but it includes the original album plus half a dozen bonus tracks. Highly recommended to fans of the weirder RPI albums, classical, and avant-garde fare.

Report this review (#622248)
Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Every once in a while, you hear something so different and powerful it forces you to completely re-evaluate popular music; that's how I felt when I first heard Luciano Cilio. His lone album Dialoghi del Presente (later issued as Dell'Universo Assente) is far from Progressive Rock, as the usual trappings of drums, synthesizers and even lyrics are totally absent. Instead, experimental 20th century classical is probably the more appropriate arena; although having collaborated with Alan Sorrenti and others from the Napoli art scene, Cilio had loose ties to Rock Progressivo Italiano in that sense. If you enjoy Pierrot Lunaire (especially Gudrun), you will find a lot to like here. Dell'Universo Assente will also appeal to those with an adventurous spirit, but I cannot recommend it to the faint of heart: The weight of the composition is tremendous, and it creates a nearly overwhelming sense of dread and despair. Luciano Cilio produced a very intense, and very personal, statement in 1977; luckily one that was committed to tape just in time it seems, as the artist would end his life some five years later. Cilio's suicide casts a heavy shadow on Dell'Universo Assente, even more so as its first CD release in 2004 would allow time and distance to create an uncomfortable legacy.

The best movement of the five-part suite is the first - "Primo Quadro Della Conscenza" is a jaw-dropping piece featuring the immaculate classical guitar style of Cilio, with minimal piano accompaniment and operatic female moaning. As the strings enter at the two-minute mark, the song takes a decidedly nasty and discordant turn. This is only temporary, and once the vocals end, a delicate piano and guitar interchange blissfully sees the movement to its end. "Primo Quadro Della Conscenza" is by far the most focused and powerful of the four main tracks, and is matched only by "Interludio" in terms of polish. While the middle three pieces do have their moments, each part tends to concentrate on one or two instruments and no more, and this minimalism inhibits what could have been a brilliant ensemble. That being said, Dell'Universo Assente is an extremely solitary affair, and to tamper with or reconstruct its beauty is self-defeating. "Interludio" is a perfect example of this sparse modus operandi; nylon-stringed guitar is assisted by only oboe and cello, and the timbre of each instrument respectively accentuates one another, rather than competing with each other.

Dell'Universo Assente is not the kind of music you can listen to every day, but it is definitely something all progressive music fans should hear at least once. The opportunity to do so may be running out, however: After the initial CD issue on Die Schachtel in 2004, the album was only reprinted once a few years ago, and limited to 500 copies. Luckily, according to a SoundOhm press release, Dell'Universo Assente is getting the deluxe 2LP treatment soon, and hopefully will reach a new generation of fans. This is not a perfect album, and really not an RPI album, but is highly recommended nonetheless.

Report this review (#875199)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album has such stunningly beautiful, sensitive and vulnerable music on it! I'm reviewing the original 1977 album here, which is very short at about 30 minutes. These 30 minutes are really unlike anything else and are currently my favourite Italian album (and there are quite a few good ones, as you know).

This is very calm music, although it comes with a very rich instrumentation. "Primo Quadro della Conoscenza" is based on acoustic guitar and piano and has some violin and female voices that are used in an instrumental manner. This is quite harmonic but the voices add an experimental feel to it. "Secondo Quadro della Conoscenza" is carried by flute and Tony Esposito's meandering percussion with some oboe. It has some jazz- and contemporary experimental music influences and I'm actually reminded of the approach taken in the last two marvellous Talk Talk albums (minus Talk Talk's straight drums). I wonder whether Mark Hollis knew this album when embarking on Talk Talk's big transformation. The "Terzo Quadro" is a little slow piano piece, played so light as if Cilio had triggered the keys by breathing alone. Tony Esposito's percussion is back on the "Quarto Squadro"; also he touches his instruments very lightly and creates pulsating soundscapes rather than straight rhythms. Later acoustic guitar and oboe join in, and even later the strings, to create a fascinating twilight atmosphere. The last piece is surprisingly called "Interludio". It starts as a guitar piece; later oboe and violin join in again, changing the originally lighter mood to something more mysterious and deep. The guitar ends the album in a more optimistic fashion.

To me the music is an extremely touching expression of the uncertainties of finding ones way in life, and how a very sensitive character perceives it. This is one of these albums in which every single note played by any instrument is important and carries emotion. The songs are mostly of a free form; it is never predictable where they lead. I'd still think they were mostly composed (I can imagine some improvisation here, but overall there is much attention to how things work together). There is a very subtle balance between conventional and more experimental tonality; we are led along familiar paths but suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a strange landscape we have never seen before without knowing the way out. I'm very sad to read on Wikipedia that Luciano Cilio " died in Milan by his own hand at the age of 33", six years after recoding this album. I'd have wished the man who here shows so much of his vulnerable personality without even using words all the best in life, but this comes too late.

In any case, this is something very special and worth 5 stars without a doubt.

Report this review (#1886247)
Posted Saturday, February 17, 2018 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars In addition to the endless symphonic gems and heavier guitar-driven albums of the early vintage Italian progressive era of the Seventies, there are also a handful of supremely beautiful and experimental works that are well worthy of rediscovery today. One of them was delivered by classical-inspired composer and multi-instrumentalist Luciano Cilio, a tragic figure who sadly took his own life in the few years after his sole LP. His legacy, `Dialoghi del Presente' from 1977 is a ravishing mix of chamber-prog, ethnic-flavoured raga rock and avant-garde experimentation, and it works in everything from the most heartbreaking of piano balladry, unnerving vocal drones and percussion-heavy ambient interludes, sometimes having much in common with acts such as Germany's Popol Vuh.

Trickles of placid acoustic guitar that wrap around pin-drop delicate piano in opening movement `Primo Quadro Della Conoscenza' are gentle and comforting, but soon groaning cello and sighing wordless droning female voices bring an unsettling and despondent quality. Little ticks and abrupt sharp piercings in their voices are deeply jarring, truly pained souls in deep torment, but a final fragile solo piano reprise that turns confident in its final moments is achingly beautiful and offers little traces of light, hope and solace. Soft pattering percussion, faraway recorder and drifting flute float through `Secondo Quadro' that reminds of the more meditative moments of the early Deuter works, groaning cello slowly and softly weaving the piece into a mournful and lonely lament.`Terzo Quadro' is then a gentle, reflective and delicately romantic little solo piano interlude to close the first side that sparkles in the most minute of details and remains tasteful, restrained and intelligent the whole way.

The haunting `Quarto Quadro Della Conoscenza' has manic hand percussion builds rumbling around sombre flute, creaking cello and groaning oboe, creating an aural collage of Popol Vuh-like world/Kraut/ambient fusion, perhaps even lightly drifting closer to something like the ethnic raga sounds of early Seventies Italian collective Aktuala. The subdued closer `Interludio' is mysterious with moments bristling with life with ringing acoustic guitar spirals that teem with drama and barely contained excitement dancing between murky double-bass groans, and the piece ultimately culminates in a glorious and defiant horn climax.

Listeners wanting something more straight-forward or melodic will have to look elsewhere, and some may think this album a little fragmented, but those whose brains are wired for challenging, unpredictable and extravagant works may find Luciano Cilio's LP constantly inspiring, uncompromising and even deeply moving. There's a melancholic air that pervades most of the set, yet it remains one of those examples where great beauty hides in even the darkest of corners. Fiercely personal, intimately private and absolutely heartbreaking, `Dialoghi del Presente' is an understated and starkly honest minor masterpiece.

Five stars.

Report this review (#1903572)
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dialoghi del presente this is a unique album. Much of the music here is closer to Avant-Prog. If you want a new musical travel that falls outside the boundaries of any musical genres and that falls outside Rock Progressivo Italiano, then this is will surely grab your attention. The sound of the album is dense, dark, and at times even a little frightening, and sometimes very beautiful. The music is incredibly well crafted dramatic darkness. In 1983, Luciano Cilio committed suicide, adding an extra tinge of sadness to the music. The five pieces of this short album total only about 30 minutes. It's a pity that this man didn't have time to give us more. Not for the faint of heart and yet not to be feared--this is odd but wonderful music!
Report this review (#1918427)
Posted Monday, April 30, 2018 | Review Permalink

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