If the mainstream music scene, particularly its American exponents, has grown increasingly one dimensional and staid over the past quarter century, continental Europe is still a hub for risk taking and talent. Project-TO is an artistic collective based out of Italy who bring a multimedia approach to their debut project. The concept behind The White Side The Black Side, a double album with twelve songs, is that the first six songs represent the “white” group while the final six songs are re-imaginings of the same material. The collection aims for the second group of six to serve as “photographic negatives” of the white side songs with a distinctly different tenor and emotional thrust while still conforming to the same running time. It is scarcely possible to picture few American based artistic units will to take on such an ambitious project and the very existence of the release, in important ways, underscores the collective’s obvious confidence.
The white side begins with “I Hope”. Rolling percussion with a light touch begins the track and its augmented by gossamer thin synthesizer support vaguely coalescing behind it. The track soon expands with the introduction of electronic bass notes, distorted voice over, and additional synthesizer lines. Despite this, the track has a relatively stripped down and lean line of attack that helps listeners focus their attention. In contrast, “Sign of the Earth” is a far more cluttered and chaotic number. There isn’t any particular passage where the wealth of musical detail is so enormous it overwhelms their audience, but Project-TO moves restlessly on this tune, never settling in one place for long and the slightly dizzying effect it achieves for listeners is part of its appeal. “Rebirth” has more intensity than any of the aforementioned numbers and wastes no time setting the bar high. Much like “Sign of the Earth”, “Rebirth” has a tangible restlessness from the first seconds on. “Ya-Ho” has a steady charge from its opening moments and doesn’t let go of it. It is more reminiscent of the opening songs than those that followed it in its comparatively unadorned arrangement and emphasis on a few base elements over attempting to cover all the bases/. The white side’s concluding number, “Roger”, is the album’s most frantic number yet.
The black side begins with “Black I Hope”. If anything, this track is a little more pared down to the bone than even the white side version. What is different here, immediately, is that the synthesizers are busier in a distinctly different way than before and maintain that course throughout the song. “Black Rebirth” foregoes much of the voice over passages heard in its white side counterpart and has an altogether darker atmosphere. The real transformative achievement on this release, however, may be the recasting job Project-TO does on “Black Ya-Ho”. There’s almost a muted menace about the track that doesn’t announce loudly announce itself but, instead, builds tension as it progresses. “Black Roger” concludes the collective’s debut release by continuing the mood set in the preceding song. There’s something diamond-hard, chiseled, and profoundly intelligent about how Project-TO presents this release and their wide-ranging ambitions for realizing its potential aren’t pretentious at all but, instead, inspires listeners to think about the medium and message alike in a distinctly different fashion than before.
9 out of 10 stars.