Petite Noir

La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful

Domino

Sep 09, 2015 Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES Bookmark and Share


The 24-year-old Cape Town, South Africa artist Yannick Ilunga's music isn't little and it isn't dark. Sure, the music he's released as Petite Noir is full of miniature percussive cheers and ominous bass, but Ilunga is more about titular contradictions than he is straightforward parallelism. His EP The King of Anxiety suggested a focus on voice and flair; his debut full-length, La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful, sees him scoop handfuls of intricate synth and bright horns, spread his fingers wide, and spill them through the gaps like sand in an hourglass. Petite Noir's debut LP crafts its own sound and, in the process, reveals the beauty of life through his eyes.

Ilunga's still flaunting a voice unlike anyone else's, but this time it becomes a part of the music instead of a separate being. On "Just Breathe," he mimics an instrument's melody by sliding up the scale. On "Down," he does it again. It's the type of self-realized talent that comes after you've sung in a church and played in a metalcore band. There's eerie baritone tucked away at the end of his notes. In comparison to his usual soulful delivery, it allows the taffy stretch of his notes to garner their own recognizable tone, especially on dramatic calls to action like "Freedom" and the title track.

Life Is Beautiful gathers its charm from the music behind him. Syncopated percussion splits up African-blues guitars and '80s synth. The combination fuels the record's unrelenting energy, and at times it recalls Atoms For Peace ("MDR") or M83 ("Seventeen (Stay)"), riding on its electronics in purely atmospheric ways. That blend makes itself most clear on closer "Chess." The new version of the EP cut gives the guitars a softer tone, drawing the comparisons between a flowering sound and a rising musician as beautiful as the world he's detailing. (www.facebook.com/petitenoir1)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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