Mi And L'au | Review | Mr Pharmacist

The whole package is most bewitching

Rating: 5 out of 5 Though I'm sure it's a term much loathed by label founder Michael Gira, Young God Records seems to be a major flag flyer for the new breed of "Weird Folk" that is gurgling up from the underground. Since Gira tapped into similar tributaries during the latter half of Swans' career, there's a solid connection between Gira and the current crop of new sort-of-folkies. It sure ain't your father's folk. These are the sounds of Dylan filtered through Syd Barrett's fractured psyche, sounds married to idiosyncratic personal reflection and just plain weirdness. It's all a bit odd, oblique and experimental. Those expecting Peter, Paul, and Mary cuddliness need not bother. However, Mi and L'au don't fit firmly in that label. They do have what seems to be a prerequisite odd back story. In this case, model Mi meets sensitive musician L'au, they flee to the backwoods of Finland and, safe from the cruel world, are free to weave a delicate little world of song and melody. I suspect they don't bathe much. Comparisons head various points of the compass from there. On their self-titled debut, whether it's Mi or L'au singing (separate or together), both vie for a near spider thread delicacy. Mi is arguably the more fragile in sound. Acoustic instrumentation fills in a few spaces, leaving the vocals to float naked and yearning. The odd sound or two (scratchy record, bubbling water?) add a facet of disconnection or bemused sadness. It all gels with only the barest hint of preciousness or self consciousness. In fact, it comes together in a most haunting, moving quality. What makes Mi and L'au work is a triple combo. First comes the understated yet powerful melancholy of the duo's voices. There's feeling in every icy phrase. Both are expressive (at least in terms of darker colors) and convey a near creepy intimacy. Secondly, there's the tunes themselves. Only occasionally sounding half formed or fragmentary, these are songs that sound forged and well thought out. There's solidness here, the songs stay in the head and don't simply fade after the listen. Finally, the lyrics are toppings on the cake. Completely eschewing folkie earnestness, the two sing skewed observations ("philosophers' keep walking") or snippets or phrases ("there's a world in your belly") that conjure feelings or emotional tones. The whole package is most bewitching. It's a first effort, so there's a potential or two as yet unreached. Sophomore effort and growing pains might reveal more or less. For now, here's to living in the Finnish woods with a model.