Petite Noir: “La Vie Est Belle/Life Is Beautiful” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music:

Cape Town, South Africa, in the past decade, has proven to be a great exporter of a colorful spectrum of pop music. Groups like Civil Twilight and Freshlyground has gained acclaimed in America, and now Yannick Ilunga, professionally known has Petite Noir, is on his way to joining the ranks of them, although his music has more of a “twist” to it: Petite Noir makes a unique blend of rock, dance, world music, and R&B that brings to mind some of the most crucial qualities of the artists that defined all of those genres.

Ilunga had first come into international conscience when he appeared on the Saint Heron compilation curated by Solange Knowles. Following that, he released a critically acclaimed EP called The King of Anxiety at the beginning of 2015, and after being lauded for the single, “Chess” he decided to move forward and craft his debut LP. La vie est belle/Life Is Beautiful, released in September of the same year, capitalizes on every quality that made his EP great and amplifies it to an even more cinematic and beautiful level. Petite Noir creates rock music for dance and R&B fans as well as soul for rock fans.

The album, which also features “Chess” as a single (and rightfully so), immediately brings to mind the transitional sounds of the late 70’s. Berlin-era/Scary Monsters-Bowie is heavily channeled on the record on cuts like “Just Breathe” and “MDR”, two of the other highlights off the album. That’s just one part of it, though, as Ilunga is capable of moving to everything from brass’n’bass worthy of Jeff Magnum’s tastes, or subtle tones that, when paired to the gorgeously muffled sound of Ilunga’s voice, sounds like they could have wound up on the latest ANOHNI album.


“Don’t take me or break me/I’ll fight for myself/The King’s above me/And there’s nobody else”

Sings Ilunga on the early standout “Best”. On La vie est belle… Ilunga seems to be interested in anything and everything, from the holiness of love to the love of holiness – and he is not shy about his sexuality either on “Chess”. “I don’t know but you’re taking me for a fool, boy/You don’t know so you tell me to stay cool, boy/Haven’t had you around for a while (it’s real shit right here)” croons the singer on the closing track. It’s a fine bookend to a truly remarkable debut from a voice that won’t be lacking the interest of the industry anytime soon.