Petite Noir’s song “Chess” floats in like an eclectic, slow electronic fog. This electronic backdrop remains the foundation for the song from start to finish and isn’t tarnished by heavy beats or obnoxious bass drops. The mist is cut by Yannick Ilunga’s haunting, gentle, James Blake-esque falsetto. Singer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, this exceedingly talented South African artist lets his voice and lyrics carry his listeners through the fading mist of the song. As if he means to represent the dueling personalities of the struggling couple the song describes, Ilunga allows his voice to vacillate from a high falsetto to a low alto. Breathy yet strong, his vocals are undoubtedly the strongest instrument the song possesses.
By the three-minute mark, multiple marriages of sound emerge. An additional electric guitar and drum set meet amid electronic mist to add intensity and sonic depth. Ilunga’s alto carries the lyrics while his falsetto beautifully whispers more on the song’s intent. A love that was supposed to be as easy as checkers is made into a complicated, sonically inspiring six-and-a-half-minute chess game. Speeding up and adding on until its very end, the electronic landscape underlying the tragic love story builds and then buries itself into the song’s close. Starting simple and expanding into a deeper, matured excellence, “Chess” sounds like a completely different song six and a half minutes later.
This is the kind of song you buy expensive headphones for, that you send to that really hip friend because you’ve finally found something even they will not deny. And yes, unfortunately Pitchfork likes it, but don’t let that fog your burgeoning obsession. Bobbing your head with your Walgreens headphones in won’t do “Chess” justice: blast this one from your speakers.