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Petite Noir
La Maison Noir/ The Black House Michael Appouh , December 13th, 2018 12:13

Petite Noir is no stranger to invention, and with La Maison Noir/The Black House, the South African artist turns invention to evolution with an inspired record

Petite Noir’s 2015 breakout album La Vie Est Belle/ Life Is Beautiful finds a worthy successor in La Maison Noir, one that adds a layer of mythical spirituality and soldierly single-mindedness to an already impressive back catalogue. Yannick Ilunga dismantles pop, hip hop and punk and alchemically fuses them back together leaving it leaning more toward an act of protest than actual music. Ilunga makes a mosaic from sounds of his native Congo such as the polyrhythmic percussion on ‘R E S P E C T’, and his home in Europe - like the vibrant alt-pop tune ‘F.F.Y.F (Pow)’.

The rotation between joyful, and profound, and resilient and broken balances the album, exploring the paradoxical emotions of forced migration. Lead single, ‘Blame Fire’ opens with the line, "Started with a prayer and a big dream" with a synth heavy backdrop - before crashing into booming percussion and a drill sergeant-like hook with a statement of intent. It would be utopian if not for the circumstances. "Refugees on a mission, don’t believe the television, ammunition, ammunition, do you really need more ammunition?" he asks. His expansive sound acts as a manifesto for the physical and mental abolition of borders, which inspired his self-created genre and philosophy ‘Noirwave’.

Standout ‘Beach’ features Danny Brown, who Noir also worked with on his remarkable 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition. The Detroit-rapper and newcomer Nukubi Nukubi, mesh their distant styles into a mystical solitary call; Petite Noir’s vocals swirl around thrashing guitar chords and Danny Brown’s gothic lyrics.

Saul Williams’ spoken word runs shy of 60 seconds on ‘Blowing Up The Congo’, but striking lines like "The fear that the slaves would learn too much and take over, is the fear that the robots would learn too much and take over" analogise the Afrofuturist ethos for Noir’s EP perfectly. Williams’ stream of consciousness sobers the spirited track, relaxing where the rest of the album contracts, a much needed break for the relentlessly intense record.

Ending before the 30 minute mark, Petite Noir winds down the album on final track ‘Hanoi’ featuring partner Rha! Rha!, with a noticeably lighter melody. If the rest of the album is an insight into the militance needed to make it through exodus, ‘Hanoi’ is the shedding of that baggage. La Maison Noir is as much a story of breakthrough as it is resistance, Yannick Ilunga’s final line, "Free your mind; and go ease your mind" says as much. It doesn't have the polish of 2015’s La Vie Est Belle, but is more daring in its exploration of its diasporic soundscapes.