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Rhythm & Views

Mi and L'au

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Looking for a new CD to put you in an altered state? The debut album by Finnish-French Mi and L'au ought to do the trick: Its deep-woods folk-rock evokes comparisons to Nick Drake, Mazzy Star, Marc Bolan, Chet Baker, kindred spirit Devendra Banhart and countless Renaissance faires.

But use this drug wisely: It conjures a beautiful, artful ache that is capable of transforming minor melancholy into full-on depression.

The couple usually live in a remote, snowbound cabin in Finland, where they recorded the basic tracks for this album before bringing them to Brooklyn for overdubs of gentle bells, banjo, flutes and piano, much of which was supplied by members of the band Akron/Family, who share the same label with Mi and L'au.

Mi's soprano is not simply breathy--she always seems to be singing at the tail end of a sigh, forcing syllables into words at the last possible moment. Lyrical meanings, therefore, aren't initially clear, but lurk around the periphery of the listener's perception. For instance, on the song "How," the lines "How should I feel / when I feel empty" seem to emerge like hazy haiku from a meditative trance.

L'au adds his tender tenor vocals and acoustic guitar playing that implies a dark, hidden menace. Not unlike a childhood hallucination, the music feels fragile and deliciously disorientated.

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