Each week, Sunday School takes a second look at a classic album worth revisiting years after its release. EMMIE staff handpick releases that shaped a genre, defined a generation or deserve recognition despite being left in the distance. Keep up with Sunday School for your weekly dose of dusted-off classics and throwbacks that merit a second spin.
Release Date: 1977
Best Tracks: All of them
Good For: Bandaging the frayed sutures of self-oblivion
The dead rose from their graves in 1977. Not as zombies, monsters or boogeymen, but as ghosts. They descended on window-panes like sleet in winter, intertwining themselves in the lives of their still-living brethren. At first this was seen as a miracle, a way for broken families to heal once more and for those unjustly taken from this world to begin again, but it soon became apparent that this was not the case. It is foolish to believe that deities subscribe to the same interpretation of justice as mortals: What is gone is gone and can only be retrieved by virtue of remembrance.
Luciano Cilio emigrated to this plane a few months after the incident. Most of the original inhabitants had left. The ghosts had betrayed the expectations of their living counterparts. They did not greet their new lease on life with the enthusiasm one may expect from beings who have returned from the depths of eternity. Rather, it seemed that the process of their transition to this world was not immaculate, that something inextricable had been extricated and the vibrancy of their being — their soul, as it may be — was still in the void from whence it parted. The region was an in-between state, a piece of fabric floating from the precipice of this world to the next — its denizens were no different.
Dialoghi del presente is music created from such a reality. It is an incredibly sparse album, indicative of a land in which echoes resound from decaying limestone and there aren’t enough prayers to go around. There is a remarkable sense of space to Dialoghi del presente: of music between noise, beauty cowering in the silence like rats before the great feline of impermanence. Perhaps the closest touchstone of comparison is Mark Hollis’ solo album, but even that, stunning and poignant as it is, lacks the indescribable sense of straddling the hopeless hope that drives this album.
Cilio always seems to be hinting at something greater. New evocations swaddled in nuance constantly reveal themselves to the listener. The opening movement begins with a guitar and then a piano, both of which are soon swallowed by a chamber ensemble and a voice that is pure goose flesh. The instruments diversify to include woodwinds, percussion, and mandolin over the album’s short run time, but it never loses its search for hope in a barren world. Ultimately, Cilio never found it, dying by his own hand at the age of 33. Despite this, I cannot help but feel that the beauty of this album, the delicacy and sheer depth of feeling in what would become his epitaph, is anything but life-affirming. To this day it remains one of the most unique, powerful, and redemptive musical excursions ever released.