The Italian based collective Project-TO is a highly unique multimedia trio with a focus on music. Their initial release, The White Side The Black Side, is a vibrant and conceptual electronic work with aims far beyond making some club goers shake their backsides. Project-TO uses this often derided form to show how capable electronic music is of making substantive statements without ever sacrificing the physicality that the form can readily manifest. Producer Riccardo Mazza and keyboardist Carlo Bagini are the primary movers behind the musical side of this project, but there’s little question after listening to this album that filmmaker and third member Laura Pol exerts considerable influence over the music and conceptual direction alike. The driving idea behind this recording is that the twelve songs, divided into two sets of six, are reflections of each other. The first white “side” has a much airier, brighter feel than the second black group, but they dovetail the each of the corresponding tracks into each other to such an extent that they even share identical running times.
A variety of voice-over effects pepper the opening composition “I Hope”, but its truly distinguishing element is the restless percussion that gives the track a polyrhythmic, almost Latin, feel. Despite the trio’s high flown artistic ambitions, there isn’t a single track in either group that fails to physically engage its listeners and compel them to move. Many listeners might tag a work like this as pretentious from the outset, but those listeners aren’t giving the trio much of a chance. This is a challenging, yet quite entertaining, kick off to the release. “Sign of the Earth” is even more challenging with a dense, yet fleet-footed, musical attack that rarely relents. There is a wonderfully cinematic air informing all of these selections and, yet, they never venture too far afield of their musical missions. The big beat, “live” feel of the white side songs is coupled here with the track’s imposing heft for one of the more bracing moments on this release.
The black side’s take on the opener, “Black I Hope”, abandons the voice over additions for the most part and strips everything down to a focused, intense line of attack. The percussion is as uniform as ever and dispenses with the flourishes heard in its white side counterpart. This is much moodier music than its counterpart. “Black Sign of the Earth” goes a step further. The dense chaos driving this track is far different in tone from its white side counterpart – there’s a genuine sense of menace here, though understated, that’s impossible to miss. The opening minutes of the song take on a ferocious pace, but it gradually subsides and the density falls away until, by the track’s conclusion, it has an almost skeletal structure. It is safe to say that few, if any, releases this year will match Project-TO’s debut for sheer inventiveness. This is cut from a decidedly different cloth than the vast majority of electronic music you’ll hear, particularly EDM, but it never fails to entertain.