JPL is Jean Pierre Louveton, guitarist of the French band Nemo. On his solo album “Noir & Blanc” he not only plays the guitars, but also the bass guitar and he takes care of the lead vocals, programming and sampling. On occasional tracks we hear Guillaume Fontaine on keyboards, Patrick Macia on (solo) guitar and Manu Defay on bass guitar. Thierry Exbrayat and Olivier Soumaire provide the background vocals.
“Noir & Blanc” is a typical bandguitarist’s solo album, where we hear diverse musical styles being explored (or exploited) in guitar-driven songs. Nice guitar play, but don’t expect anything spectacular. Most (vocal) pieces are sung in French, with the exception of “Warmakers”.
The album opens with a rather lightweight pop/rock summer tune “Plus
que de mots” (3:32). This piece puts you on the wrong track,
metaphorically speaking, regarding the rest of the pieces on the album,
because a considerable amount of the remaining tracks feature a rather
solid bass and drums basis. The second piece on the album is a pleasant
instrumental guitar rock piece entitled “Rodeo”
(4:37) from which only the title is original.
"Les jours heureux" (4:11) opens indeed rather happily with acoustic guitars on a tight rhythm and ends up, ofcourse, with a guitar solo, in the style of Dire Straits.
Then things become more interesting and modern. The aforementioned solid and modern (hip hop/trip hop) but also rather heavy bass and drums basis is being introduced in the first part of the "Suite virtuelle", "De ma fenetre" (4:46). Especially the nice vocal harmonies characterize this song, next to the multi-layered and wahwah guitar play. The second part "A la source" (5:23) features a more dark atmosphere, also because of the bass and drum foundation, much heavy guitar riffs and chords and again some colorful wahwah guitar sounds.
The mood of the country mentioned in the title is captured rather well
in the instrumental "Russia fall"
(7:22) . An interesting and appealing track, because of the mix of again
the solid basis of bass, drum and heavy metal like guitar chords versus
the orchestral keyboards and even a very Russian sounding cello solo in
Jazz, funk and even some R&B are the influences of "Monstrumental" (3:19), that, as you can deduce from the title, is again an instrumental piece. "Warmakers" (3:14), the sole track sung in English, also has some funky traits and shows some keyboard sounds. After an easy acoustic intro again stiff rhythm guitars chords make the not so very happy mood of "Absent" (5:59).
The title track "Noir & blanc"
is a tree-part piece of work. Part 1 "Noir
& argent" (5:37) is a varied rock piece with nice guitar
riffs and multi-layered solos. "Blanc &
or (Etude pour 90 doigts)" (2:01) is an acoustic instrumental
bridge to part 3 "Noir & blanc"
(10:00). This piece features some soundscapes and guitar sound effects.
After an atmospheric and easy introduction the sound indeed gets rather
"noir", that is dark, in the second half.
Strange is that after about 10 minutes the music fades away and you think it's all over. But after another minute an acoustic guitar introduces an instrumental bonus, that turns out to be a more up tempo and pleasant rocking three-and-a-half minute finale. Is this the "blanc" or white part of the closing track?
It's hard tot distinguish bad or better tracks on this album. I think
I like the "hidden" bonus track most, because it delivers a
joyful ending to a further rather dark sounding album. The French vocals
provide a typical "couleur locale".
If you like guitar-driven rock, with some serious themes but without surprises, apart from the dark and deep bass and drum "package", you will enjoy this album. If you're in for real prog or sympho you probably better stick to JPL's band, Nemo.