Producer Riccardo Mazza, filmmaker Laura Pol, and keyboardist Carlo Bagini form the three piece collective Project TO. This Italian based collective must immediately rank as one of the most challenging techno/electronic units working today and certainly one of the most ambitious of our time. Anyone who consigns the genre to the dance floor alone and believes it incapable of making a sustained, substantive artistic statement is well advised to hear their first album The White Side, The Black Side. The dozen songs comprising their debut are electronica at its most challenging, yet satisfying, and tied in with an impressively ambitious multimedia concept that few outfits of any ilk or genre would dare attempt. Project TO not only attempts it, but they succeed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
The album’s dozen cuts are portioned into two sets of six – the white side and black side. Traditional electronica rules the day on the white side. There are enormous beats set to rattle your speakers and wide-open rhythms that streak along from the first second and rarely pull back for long. There are even inklings of melody peeking out from the techno textures on the white side, though Project-TO rarely emphasizes them. The white side makes frequent use of the human voice – the opener “I Hope” features voice over samples and other tracks, like “Look Further”, make even more expansive use of the human voice’s possibilities within this musical context. The black side’s reinterpretations, or “photographic negatives” as Project-TO refers to them, are stripped back recastings of the white side originals, often darker and much more narrow in scope. Few combinations embody this more than “Rebirth” and its twin “Black Rebirth”. The former takes a number of surprising turns throughout and has a dramatic arch that’s impossible to ignore, while its counterpart is a full on auditory bludgeoning of sorts with much more density and a straighter approach.
The final song for each side, “Roger” and “Black Roger”, are ideal parting examples of Project-TO’s methodology at work. The white version is a frantic, rousing finale that amps up all of the elements defining the earlier white songs with an extra dollop of intensity added for good measure. Its black side opposite is the thrilling climax to the album as a whole and turns its white side partner inside out – this is a true photographic negative of the earlier, dead-eyed and impossibly strong, and closing the set out under the cover of darkness. The White Side, The Black Side goes places where few release, especially debuts, dare travel. This is a collective intent on taking a popular art form never really renowned for longstanding artistic value and to fashion something from it capable of withstanding the slings and arrows of posterity. The twelve songs resulting from these ambitions are ample evidence that they have succeeded. Few albums this year will make the mental and physical impact on their intended audience that you hear here from Project-TO.
9 out of 10 stars