Mi and L'au | Review | Nate Wey

The beautiful melodies and tales of loss, love and questions will leave fans of cinematic folk music extremely satisfied

Feb 23/06

Opening the front cover of Mi and L'au shows two polarizing images. The cover itself, an isolated cabin buried in snow, is contradicted on the inside, with a cabin in the sunshine. The duality of the images is not the only one in the record: There are two official members of the band (Mi and L'au), from two separate countries (France and Finland); and the record itself was recorded in two separate places (the cabin previously mentioned and M. Gira's studio in Brooklyn).

However, the duality ends here, for the music is very singular. The record doesn't stray much from its minimal, folk slowcore, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, on repeated listens one finds this minimalism responsible for the power of the album's cinematic, emotional feel. From the great opening track, "They Marry" we're given a series of extremely slow, weightless melodies with male and female vocals over them. When I say slow, I am not exaggerating. Mi and L'au take what Low started, and give it a healthy dose of Codeine. Rather than taking the epic route of slow bands like Sigur Ros or Godspeed, Mi and L'au keep the instrumentation and song structures minimal. Most songs, in fact, are pop length (3-4 minutes), and if they were sped up to a standard rock tempo, they'd be about a minute each.  This, however, is a good thing, as it allows the music and words to bury under your skin. Lyrics such as "Fold your arms around me" or "There's no dream I can't see" carry more weight than they would in a normal song, and often emote with so much frequency, its hard to understand how the vocals stay so calm and gorgeous.

The instrumentation adds to this mood, as we mainly hear hushed guitars float softly under the warm vocals. However, as Mi and L'au was recorded in both Finland and Brooklyn, ambient elements are introduced in the songs. The toy pianos, accordions, strings, and bass never overpower, however.  They are almost always mixed low and used only to add color to the songs -- never to expand on them.

Though the minimalism of Mi and L'au isn't for everyone, those who give it a chance will find it a subtle and haunting record. The beautiful melodies and tales of loss, love and questions will leave fans of cinematic folk music extremely satisfied.