Project-TO – The White Side The Black Side

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The debut release from Project-TO, an electronic multimedia collective hailing from Italy, brings together a trio of the world’s finest avant-garde or experimental artists to greater prominence with one of the most ambitious conceptual albums in recent memory. Riccardo Mazza is a renowned producer who has worked with respected musicians as far flung as Chick Corea, Giorgio Gaber, and Francesco Baccini. His musical partner, keyboardist Carlo Bagini, has considerable experience playing with band and proves to have considerable chemistry with Mazza. The third member of the collective, photographer and video maker Laura Pol, casts a long and enriching shadow over the release thanks to the cinematic structures she inspires her collaborators to pursue. Make no mistake – Project-TO’s The White Side The Black Side is a fully immersive experience.

The dozen songs compromising the album are split down the middle. Project-TO allocates six songs to the white side and the same to the black. The intent is that each white track has a corresponding black twin – a photo negative as the collective puts it. The opening duo of “I Hope” and its companion piece “Black I Hope” draw a strong initial contrast in approaches. The first relies heavily on a big beat electronica approach with all of the hard-pressing intensity music listeners expect from techno music. It makes use of voice over and, specifically, takes its title from a Hilary Clinton quote. “Black I Hope” de-emphasizes the focus on a fat beat and, instead, mutes the percussion some while darkening the synthesizer and keyboard textures. Even the voice over present in the white side version takes on a distinctly different character. The voice is distorted past coherence, robotic, inhuman.

They only grow more audacious from here. “Sign of the Earth” and “Rebirth” are both densely composed electronic epics in miniature embodying a number of moods and charging forward with boisterous, undeniable spirit. Their counterparts have even greater density than the black side version of “I Hope”. “Black Rebirth”, in particular, is a monumental sonic experience that ranks as a highlight of the album. This is a collective with a wide assortment of colors in their musical palette and they possess the steely-eyed assurance to use each one to its maximum effect. The final pairing between the white and black side, “Roger”, is the natural culmination for the album. This is Project-TO’s most layered, assertive techno/electronica track yet. Both tracks are like a closed fist and the biggest difference is the tightness of the clinch – the black version is a tighter, white-knuckled version of its white counterpart and has a density of sound that earlier tracks cannot touch. There’s almost a symphonic, orchestrated method to Project-TO’s glorious madness and it works magnificently well. The White Side, The Black Side might challenge listeners’ intellectually, but it is guaranteed entertainment for devotees of the genre as well. Its ambitions never close it off to the average listener and there’s more than enough here for the high brow listener to enjoy every minute.

9 out of 10 stars

William Elgin III