Mi and L'au

Philadelphia Inquirer | A.D. Amorosi

Mi and L'au find depths of intimacy

Posted on Thu, Jan. 19, 2006

Even if you didn't know that Mi and L'au were a couple - so went the hype preceding their appearance Tuesday night at World Cafe Live - you'd have to guess at something going on between them. You could tell by the way they gazed at each other during brief interludes, the way their reed-thin bodies huddled throughout their creeping, intimate ballads, songs so subtle and sparse they seemed an afterthought.

You just wanted to tell the Finnish Mi and French L'au - ever so quietly - to get a room. If not quietly, you'd be heard above their spooky, folkish meditations, sketchily plucked, lyrical paeans to isolationist romance (they moved to Finland's chilly woods to be alone) that made a lovely counterpoint to the thrumming of rain and the rumble of trains passing by the cafe.

While their acoustic guitars plucked a mix of classical and flamenco-imbued melodies - playful songs such as "Merry Go Round" - the couple's voices gently touched on how philosophers move, how clay sets. Before you could say "yeesh," though, the duo sturdily described all sides of a romance in progress - fair and balanced.

"Without love, how can you look at me and smile," cooed Mi. Her crystalline whisper was clear and dry, a nifty balance to L'au's bassoon-like song-speak, reminiscent of Nick Drake's.

When they sang apart (rarely), each held his own. While "Burn" was Mi's best moment, the tender-but-sinister "I've Been Watching You" proved to be L'au's. Yet, as one - even with the off-key guitars of "They Marry" - they shone through the shadows, creating an odd harmony whose method of attack moved from somber to sharply loud (as loud as they get) with delightful surprise.

Lewis & Clark, who were nearly as quiet, opened the show with their own brand of crepuscular folk: brushed drums, harp-and-harmonium whirs, and a twinkling guitar sound.