Mi and L'au | Review | Mike Diver

The sparseness of these songs can not be stressed strongly enough

Mi and L'au's press release-documented isolation is absolutely apparent on their self-titled debut album ­ the pair's shared Finnish cabin was the home of much of the recording, with overdubs added later in New York. The sparseness of these songs can not be stressed strongly enough: those moved by the warm folk of L'au's friend Devendra Banhart may find the majority of these songs almost too clinical in their execution, the not-always-perfect voices and creaky guitars too simple in sound to achieve any longevity. Let me explain, somewhat: a footprint in virgin snow is a thing of substantial beauty, crisp and perfect, untainted by anything but the chilled air above it. Likewise, the first steps onto a freshly revealed beach at low tide are to be cherished, to be turned back to and photographed for preservation. Why? Because such impressions, however wonderful, are but temporary, and one feels that love for Mi and L¹au is similar in its fleetingness. A sole listen reveals every nuance it has to offer, but its beauty needn't lessen with time as digital technology ensures its perfect preservation. Come back and listen again in a few months and be moved, but repeated exposure over a short period of time will breed only indifference and, ultimately, ignorance. There are exceptions to the regular compositional nakedness: 'Word In Your Belly' is gorgeous and demands immediate revision once it rumbles to a close. A simple chime fills its length, whilst a deadpan vocal dances slowly with truly saddening strings. The words may not hark to such an experience, but the music ­ effortlessly elegant and possessing much poignancy ­ is the closest anyone has come to capturing the feeling of a first heart break this year. Likewise, 'Older' benefits from richer-than-usual instrumentation, only this time its lyrics are consumed by regret and the temporary nature of life, and all the beauty that appears and vanishes with it. Truly music best experienced alone, Mi and L'au is a work of wonderful understatement and subtlety, but one that needs its breathing space to exist beyond any short-term artist-audience relationship.