Mansfield TYA: Nyx


Back from sojourns with other outfits (Julia Lanoë as one half of Sexy Sushi, Carla Pallone gifting her unique violin sound to Stranded Horse amongst others), Mansfield TYA have returned to inject new life into their minimalist chanson-blues.
Some elements remain the same: Pallone's plangent violin; the doubling or tripling or voices (even if they are all Julia) giving the feeling that you're listening to soul sisters singing their pain together. Many songs being basically 'ritournelles', musical themes obsessively circling the same chords, which fit with the ever-introspective (even depressive) nature of the lyrics. It's always been one of the most powerful aspects of Mansfield TYA, their inability or lack of desire to move on, cheer up, let things go. One of the slightly disappointing aspects of their last album, 2009's Seules Au Bout de 23 Secondes, was that it was a little too cheerful in places!
Another issue with it is that it felt like an extension of their debut, June, but obviously minus the novelty value. That's not the case here – the palette has been much expanded to include not only keyboards and electronic trickery but also some danceable rhythms. Single 'Des Coups, Des Couers' ('Beats and Hearts' I guess) is the biggest surprise, a Latin-tinged shimmy with a refrain of “emmène-moi danser” (“take me dancing”, somewhat in the spirit of Morrissey's “take me out tonight”) that manages to be both uplifting and plaintive. 'Au Loin' is another striking percussion-led piece, something like a Gallic riposte to tUnE-YarDs – although apparently These New Puritans' Hidden was a bigger influence.
Elsewhere, 'Cavaliers' and 'An Island in an Island' opt for skeletal electro-clash beats, making them emaciated cousins of some of Sexy Sushi's tunes. And there are more layers of vocals, from bass growls to children's voices. But it all feels unified, more so than Seules Au Bout de 23 Secondes, perhaps because it's carefully sequenced and seems to have been built around a nocturnal theme – 'La Notte', the chorus of “the night will be tender” on 'Nightdrive Apocalypse' (one of only three English-language songs) and Nyx is the Greek goddess and embodiment of the night. From dark introspection to dancing, it's all captured there.
David McKenna