I first heard from Jérémie Grima around the time of their debut album in 2004, ‘And Life Goes On, and over the years I have watched TBNP change from a one-man project with session musicians to a full band. Sébastien Bourdeix was the next person to actually join, and together they recorded ‘Stereoscope’ in 2005, with the band becoming a full unit sometime later. As is usual, I played the album before reading the press release and was somewhat surprised when I listened to it, as it contains little of the elements which I associate with them. Their last album, 2017’s ‘Divided We Fall’, was one I gave top marks to and described it as wonderful, amazing, and indispensable, but this one not so much.
Previously they have been heavily influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, with lyrics in English, and a compelling sound but here there is an album that is virtually instrumental and what lyrics there are, are in French. This led me to the press release, and the realisation that this is a TBNP album where Jérémie has played no part (apparently, he is working on his latest novel), which is a bit like having Pendragon without Nick Barrett, Jadis without Gary Chandler, or Galahad without Stu Nicholson. True, his wife has provided the artwork so one has to imagine this is amicable, and possibly temporary, but in many ways what we have here is an offshoot and not the real deal. Sébastien provides most of the instrumentation, and he has been joined by bassist Anthony Létévé and drummer Fabrice Berger, both ex-members of the band, neither of whom played on the last release.
The result is an album which is pleasant while it is playing, but rarely more than that. Ideas seem to meander as opposed to having real focus and is something which is absolutely perfect as background music but little more than that. It contains a great deal of space, and at times is quite minimalist, and is far removed from what I really expect from The Black Noodle Project who have long been a favourite of mine. Sébastien has been part of the band for more than 15 years and I can see why he would want to keep using the name, as he has been an integral part of their success, but I would much prefer it if this has been put out as a solo project as then I would have approached it quite differently, but as it is, I cannot help but compare it with what has gone before. Minimalist in a post rock, post prog kind of way, with elements of Radiohead and Pink Floyd, often with fairly basic piano, this is a nice release but do not expect it to be something which ties in with the rest of the canon.