#soundcheck: debut single from south african artist petite noir

May 21, 2012

Petite Noir is the nom de guerre of Yannick Illunga; singer for the indie-electro-pop band Popskarr. Born in Belgium and now based out of Cape Town, the singer/songwriter/producer just released his debut single ‘Till We Ghosts / The Dance.’ The track and it’s B-side blend African rhythms with chillwave production and indie sensibilities all topped with a creamy strawberry Joy Division frosting of sadness and reverb.

In interviews, Yannick describes his music as the product of global influences, and it shows. In a world where one’s cultural upbringing is as indebted to the websites they visit as it is to the city they live in, Petite Noir creates music that transcends national and continental boundaries. It doesn’t cross those borders. It doesn’t smash them. It makes them irrelevant. The production techniques and synth drums are descended from American indie and European electronica, while the hand percussion and infectiously syncopated guitar line are distinctly African. This is true world music without being the reductive and fetishistic “World Music” that is ubiquitous in coffee shops, book stores, and Vampire Weekend’s tour bus.

At it’s heart, this is music about loss and relationships. Bad communication and heartbreak. “Oh my God / it’s been a while / I’m never gonna see that girl again.” The hauntingly simple video cuts between clips of Yannick and a woman staring directly at the camera (photography is credited to Redman, but I’m going to assume it’s not that Redman. Though how cool would that be?). The two nearly never appear in frame together. The emotional disconnect and yearning to communicate is palpable and visceral.

Petite Noir’s sound is unique in that it doesn’t pull from many influences, it seems to pull from all possible influences. This is music that could only exist in the internet era, and as such it feels like the beginning of something truly new and exciting. Yannick is currently at work on the debut Petite Noir EP. It can’t come soon enough.

– Contributor: Nathan Leigh