Project-TO - The White Side, The Black Side
The Italian based collective Project-TO, a trio whose membership includes producer Riccardo Mazza, keyboardist Carlo Bagini, and filmmaker Laura Pol, have released a debut album that will surely rank among the widest reaching expressions of techno music’s artistic potential we have yet heard. The White Side, The Black Side is a study in contrast, but it’s much more. It is almost a painterly exercise with sound as the trio recorded a dozen songs consciously divided into two groups of six – the white side and the black side. The white side features an inspired, yet arch-traditionalist approach to techno – the big beats, bright keyboard and synth textures, and incessant rhythms that never relent from first note to last. The black side, naturally, features these same elements only stripped down to their essentials and given a decidedly darker shade than heard on the white side. The experiment comes off flawlessly and results in one of the most substantial recording achievements of 2016.
The opener “I Hope” takes its title from a Hilary Clinton quote that finds its way into the mix as a spoken word sample. The use of such techniques gives the track a slight avant garde edge, but pretentiousness never weighs down any of the album’s twelve cuts. The fat beats, unlike the typical dry sound you customarily hear with this style of music, resound with warmth and presence while still pushing the song hard towards its inevitable conclusion. The black version of the track features a similar tempo, but the spoken word samples are much fewer and, when they arise, heavily distorted. The density of the white version gives way to a thicker, but much more spartan sound, reliant on fewer separate keyboard and synth lines. “Look Further” has a strong vocal presence, but it is heavily treated with electronics and fully integrated into the mix. The percussion presence in the song is as strong as ever, but keyboardist Carlo Bagini explores a much wider dynamic range here than heard on the earlier songs. The black version drops the vocal presence entirely and, instead, pursues a much more bare bones approach intent on creating atmosphere. It succeeds wildly.
The vocals return on the white side’s “Rebirth” and segue into some quasi-rock posturing interlaced, naturally, with the busy percussion, but the truly powerful element driving the track is Mazza’s and Bagini’s wise and knowing manipulation of dynamics. “Rebirth” snakes its way through a variety of astutely placed dramatic shifts. “Black Rebirth”, in contrast, maintains a much straighter line of attack – the manipulations heard on the white side are much fewer and, when they do happen, much more subtle. One doesn’t often attach the adjective “subtle” to a description of techno music, but Project-TO is not your typical practitioners of the style. The multimedia nature of this release and the obviously uncluttered creative vision of the songwriting and performances alike show the trio to be proudly standing on the cutting edge of the form. The White Side, The Black Side deserves your attention.
9 out of 10 stars