Project TO – The White Side, The Black Side
As conceptual efforts go, the debut release from Project-TO surely rates as one of the more all-encompassing examples of the form released in the last quarter century. The White Side, The Black Side is a twelve song opus with a grad over-arching design. The first six songs are intended to reflect the album’s “white” side and rely on the big beats and airy flair common to most techno and electronica while the “black” side are meant to be photographic negatives of those same songs, but cast in a distinctly different manner while sharing the same running time. Some might wonder if the second set of six songs are little more than remixes – nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, it is better to hear the second set of six songs as re-interpretations of the same material from a completely different mood. The “black” side, unsurprisingly, is darker and leaner than its white counterpart. The production is simply superb thanks to Project-TO member Riccardo Mazza’s judicious hand manning the boards.
“I Hope” isn’t nearly the album’s peak, but it does offer a compelling early glimpse into the album’s aims. This is strict techno and perfectly delivered with spoken word seamlessly woven into the mix. Project-TO, the musical side of the collective anchored by Mazza and keyboardist Carlo Bagini, builds these sort of songs with expert confidence – the percussion is lively and steers things well while Bagini’s battery of keyboards, sequencers, and synthesizers zip over the propulsive rhythmic foundation. “Sign of the Earth” shows development of theme. The layering is much more intense here than the opener while still retaining a clear musicality. “Ya-Ho” ramps itself up akin to how a rock track gradually picks up steam. The sparse opening accumulates additional layers as the track progresses until, well before the song’s mid way point, it is charging ahead full throttle. There is considerable subtlety here as well for discerning listeners.
“Black I Hope”, the listener’s first sampling of the black side, serves the same purpose as its white antecedent. The black tracks dispense with any inkling of dross or brightness and, instead, favor a much more edgy approach. It’s never overly aggressive, but there’s little question after hearing this song that Project-TO is realizing their ambitions with room to spare. Much like the white side, things get complicated from here. “Black Sign of the Earth” is one of the album’s artistic highpoints. It is a chaotic, darkly tinted swirl of sound always coherently moving forward, but threatening to pull listeners deeper into its web as the track goes on. “Black Ya-Ho” reeks of desperation, fear, and heart racing panic. There’s a natural uniformity here, Project-TO excels at compositional construction if nothing else, but the menace powering the song is unmistakable.
If you read a lot of music reviews, you are familiar with critics announcing that you’ve heard nothing quite like this before. It is customarily hyperbole. However, Project-TO works within a popular musical form and takes it places none of their contemporaries dare to search out. The White Side, The Black Side is truly like nothing else you will hear in 2016.
9 out of 10 stars