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Try a Little Tenderness

Mi and L'au are a French/Finnish couple using their powers of tenderness to part the debris that snarls the raging beast. In me, anyway.

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2005
The gentle acoustic guitar and light harmonies are akin to watching a candle flicker
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2005
The gentle acoustic guitar and light harmonies are akin to watching a candle flicker

Mi and L'au
Mi and L'au
(Young God Records)

I find that tenderness often goes underestimated in this world. We try to channel our wolf nature to accomplish things, believing that its our howl and gnash that get business done in this world, but truly, it is the meek that inherit the earth. Wolves , without fail square off against each other and while the melee has its fireworks and sexiness, you end up with 1 - 2 dead wolves. The real power is wielded by those that keep it in check, their resolve quiet but unflinching, requiring no sens of combat or bombast to accomplish a goal. They aren't fighting the thunderstorms, they are talking to he wind, and in the long run, they will get a better return on investment.

Its this quiet resolve that attracts me to spooky delicate acoustic music.its parts are immediately recognizable, its structure ofter pared down to the minimum , making every element crucial. And I'm not talking Belle and Sebastian mellow here, I'm talking the spook folk of Will Oldham and Current 93 and Ben Chasny and now a new couple of forest dwellers Mi and L'au. She (Mi, Finnish) and and he (L'au, French) met in Paris where she worked as a model, he a soundtrack musician, did the bohemian flat-hopping thing and then bolstered by the warmth of their love made off to a cabin in the frozen woods of Finland, and their music reflects this spares essentiality. the music supporting their small voices consists of carefully picked guitar and the occasional mandolin. They trade off vocals, with Mi's whisper and L'au's clipped delivery making you listen closer, as if a ghost is telling you a secret.

The opening track "They Marry" picks and ticks like a clock, detailing the cycle of lover between lovers, with a feathery dizzying merry-go-round twinkle and swoon supporting it, while a later song actually title "Merry Go Round" sounds as if the contraption of the opening number has been drugged and is slowly winding itself into hibernation. Its heavenly stuff, the slow orbits it creates. Its in the sparser tracks like "Philosopher" however, where the real magic lies. The gentle acoustic guitar and light harmonies are akin to watching a candle flicker. "I've Been watching You" with its slow Nick Drake fingerpicked development shows the group to have a sinister side amongst all this sylvan filigree. "Burns" which highlights Mi's voice the best, offers a solution for all those soft voiced women who are looking to sound powerful but end up sounding cutesy. He vocal style is almost like a bamboo flute, simple but direct, cutting though the various ambiance that has been attached to the recording. "Older" languidly rolls out like a Quaalude sunset, while the string laden "A Word in Your Mouth" has the deep grandeur of a John Adams or Arvo Part string piece, no doubt coming from L'au's experience scoring for films. The way slight rain drops or something like that sound like they are falling on the strings themselves is just sublime.

This album is rife with twists and turns, toy pianos and zithers and who knows what else crop up here and there, but its in the voice and the palpable connection between the two that centers this most gentle and elegant of records. It reminds me of the earlier Damon and Naomi albums or maybe Dome (I think that's what it was called, one of those lesser known Mute groups that only resurfaced in compilation albums) but with a decided hermetic cast about it. Like This Mortal Coil and Dead Can Dance with none of the bombast and twice the embers. Like the moon reflected off a frozen lank. Like a tree swaying in the wind. Like two people in love. it is sweet deep stuff that yields ever unfolding rewards as your spend time with it. That is the power of tenderness.

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Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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