Nearly two years have passed since Yannick Ilunga released his first single Till We Ghosts under the moniker Petite Noir. The young South African cut his teeth on dreamy electro-pop as a member of the outfit Popskarr, before branching out on his own to create self-described “noir wave,” deeply informed by an African aesthetic. The singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist continues to navigate mesmerising new wave soundscape with latest EP The King Of Anxiety.
The five-track EP opens with the rhythmically hypnotic Come Inside. Bordering on repetitive, the countermelody in the guitar, with the addition of wailing synths, kicks in at just the right time to avert imminent monotony. With lyrics lifted from an instant-messaging conversation he had with the object of his affection on the day of recording, Chess showcases Ilunga’s astounding voice, which seamlessly transitions from a thundering baritone, through the beautiful gravel of his middle register, up to his floating falsetto.
The EP really starts to pick up in its middle with Shadows. While rhythm remains the predominant musical element throughout the whole body of work, Shadows contains some really exciting melodic writing. Switching faultlessly between falsetto and chest voice, Ilunga’s highly charged vocals are continuously layered, as the track gets more intense and frenetic. Counter guitar motifs also make another appearance, working really effectively against the vocal melodies to generate exciting points of interest.
The King of Anxiety includes a new version of Petite Noir’s introductory single Till We Ghosts, enlisting Yassin Bey (Mos Def) to make an exciting appearance. The track opens with Ilunga’s magnetic baritone, while swelling synths, crisp guitar, glittering percussion and an expansive electronic soundscape deepen the track’s dusky atmosphere. There’s a haunting wistfulness to the track that is as heartbreakingly tragic as it is distantly sweet. The EP’s final track The Fall offers a sound that is simultaneously retro and refreshing.
While Petite Noir is navigating a music that is incredibly exciting and unique, a threat of monotony looms over his chordal choices, as much of his music hovers over the tonic, rarely shifting to other chords. An exploration of limitless possibilities of harmonic variation would help Ilunga to design an even more electrifying soundtrack to buttress his astounding vocal talents.