Petite Noir (AKA 24-year-old Cape Town native Yannick Ilunga) has termed his sound – somewhat egocentrically – ‘Noirwave’. It cherry picks from a myriad of opposing influences, including post-punk, soulful British pop and West African High-Life. Admittedly that sounds messy on paper, but in practice it makes for an album of sexy, yearning, downtempo pop. And at the heart of this polyrhythmic gumbo are Ilunga’s soulfully plangent vocals. They are the glue that binds his music, and fall somewhere between Robert Smith, Tunde Adebimpe and (no joke) ABC’s Martin Fry.

‘Freedom’ echoes a sexed-up Depeche Mode, ‘Just Breathe’ surges with the urgent thrill of TV on the Radio, and ‘Best’ sounds like Joy Division playing a residency in a Lagos nightclub. There are times when the album can seemingly dip into the facile, with Ilunga‘s lyrics leaning heavily towards superficial pop aphorisms, but as you let them wash over you, you’ll find it’s this simplicity that is key to the album’s success.

Ilunga – rich in heritage himself, as the son to an Angolan mother and Congolese father, who was born in Brussels – blurs genres but never muddles them and the result is a collection of richly lovelorn songs. His music may be in thrall to certain influences but it’s never shackled by them, allowing the subtle majesty of ‘La Vie Est Belle/Life Is Beautiful’ to flow in seductive freedom; like silk billowing on the breeze.


More from