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Dell'Universo Assente

Over the course of its brief, two-year existence, the Die Schachtel label has published an amazing series of exquisitely packaged, limited edition releases by unknown Italian electronic music pioneers like Pietro Grossi and Enore Zaffire. Both Grossi and Zaffire worked exclusively with extended electronic tones, exploring the elusive pleasures of sinusoidal drones and so-called “endless” music. With their latest release, Dell'Universo Assente, the label unearths the work of the late Neapolitan composer Luciano Cilio and, in so doing, departs from its usual pure electronic aesthetic. Cilio was a self-taught composer, and virtuoso lute and sitar player, who was active from the late '60s to the mid-'80s and wrote almost exclusively for traditional instruments such as guitar, cello, mandola, percussion and voice. Though Cilio's warm, acoustic music is certainly a far cry from the quivering sine wave studies that have heretofore been Die Schachtel's sonic calling card, it does share its emphasis on long, sustained tones. Each note and melody is stretched out as Cilio attempts to get at its essence. Though the overt references here are to traditional folk music, modern composition and improvisation, there's a Romantic quality to most of the pieces collected here, as guitar and piano arpeggios rise and fall quietly, ebbing and flowing with the occasional extended dissonant element (most often vocal or electronic), coming sharply into focus and then receding. In the end, the invariably pretty folk melodies, though beautifully played, tread in perilously placid waters. It's a beautifully produced - and, needless to say, sumptuously packaged - CD that will likely appeal to fans of the delicate acoustic minimalism of David Grubbs or Tape, but to my ears it's lethally pleasant. (Die Schachtel) www.die-schachtel.com
-Susanna Bolle


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