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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

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