Petite Noir “Chess” (Domino)
I don’t know/but you’re taking me for a fool…” So begins the new track from the South African artist Yannick Ilunga, who records as Petite Noir (oui, je sais), dropped last week on his Facebook page.
Prior efforts, including standout tracks like “Disappear” and “’Til We Ghosts”, worked with space – echoing, crooned vocals wound ’round a distinctive sound palette. The voice was not to be ignored however – from deep baritone to sly midrange, it was striking, Ilunga preferring to sing the melody at a slight tangent to the backing music.
On the new track, Ilunga adds falsetto to his vocal range, but the voice (while still commanding) is more part of a jam-packed sound scape than pushed to the fore. In fact, “Chess” features a sometimes overwhelming smorgasbord of tastes and genres as it grows across it’s 6 minute plus run time: the intertwining staccato guitar lines and stuttering percussion are reminiscent of past work, but also invited to the party are shards of house music and a wailing electric guitar, all pushed ‘to eleven’ – with an ending not a million miles away from the Brazilian percussion freakout at the end of Doves’ “There Goes the Fear”. The result could have been a mess, but isn’t; in fact, it’s compelling (check the interplay between the melody lines at round 5:30 – it’s infectious).
While perhaps a tad more commercial sounding than prior efforts, Ilunga seems to be finding a way to place his distinctive sound within the pop orbit without being sucked in by the weight of its inherent banality; hopefully, someone out there will notice, so we all have something decent to listen to on the radio.
Taken from forthcoming ep, “The King of Anxiety”, which can be preordered here.