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Transcontinental Drift 

Finnish-French duo sings sad, ethereal songs.

Singer-songwriters Mi and L'au have spent the past month and a half living in a car. The Finnish (Mi)-French (L'au) couple have been touring the United States since late January, their belongings packed into a white Pontiac sedan rental, as they make their way from Austin to Chicago to New York (they stop at the Beachland Tavern tonight). "We're going everywhere," says L'au, who plays guitar. "And we're collecting information from all these different states, and we're taking it with us."

On their self-titled debut, Mi and L'au create late-night, acoustic candlelight music — the kind that's adored by rabid fans of dead British folkie Nick Drake. In fact, many of the songs on the album strike a similar Drakish balance between hurt and release, conveyed through hushed tones and occasional whispers. "There's so much that influences us," says L'au. "We spent a lot of time in libraries, listening to all kinds of music."

Mi and L'au were a romantic couple before they became a musical duo. They met in Paris a few years ago. Singer Mi was a model; L'au was working on soundtracks at a local recording studio. "We were just hanging around," says L'au. "Music came immediately, but that's not why we came together." Eventually, it became a shared passion ("It's a big part of our relationship now," he says). And songwriting is a truly collaborative effort, with Mi and L'au jotting down ideas wherever they are (L'au claims that before the CD was recorded, the pair had written more than 300 songs together). "There's no process to it," he says. "We don't have a special day just to write songs."

And while Mi and L'au features a backing band on several songs, onstage it's just the two of them. "We have to play more directly that way," says L'au. He hopes to start work on a new record by the end of the year. Till then, there's the initial U.S. tour and then back home for a string of European shows. "It's great to travel," he says. "We get to see what people do, and they get to see what we do. It's a great relationship."
Tue., March 7, 9 p.m.

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