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Brandon Ross & Stomu Takeishi: For Living Lovers: Revealing Essence

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“Let’s play a lot of notes.” “Let’s play loud.” These are things that were almost definitely not said during the sessions for Revealing Essence, the first album from For Living Lovers. The acoustic duo of guitarist/ banjoist Brandon Ross and bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi, For Living Lovers is, as its name suggests, an intimate project. The conversations are quiet and deep. Not everything is said out loud, and there is mystery present; often, when you think you’ve got a hold on the music, it slips away from you. Like life and love, the world of For Living Lovers is never static. And even if they’re intertwined, two voices can never be the same.

There is always something dividing them. “Lotus Blossom,” for instance, opens with about 90 seconds of ghostly notes. Then Takeishi’s tasteful bass emerges to swim with Ross’ emotional banjo. Later, the ethereal tones return and hang in the air. The effect is simultaneously soothing and unsettling-a feeling you can’t quite put your finger on. That idea can be applied to the album in general: Despite its name, Revealing Essence isn’t giving all the answers.

And maybe there’s a lesson in that. Maybe you need to answer your own questions sometimes. Ross does that on the solo banjo track “Iago Whispered,” which explores a folk realm both soulful and strange. Revealing Essence always seems to be about more than one thing. Even on a solo track, a musician is dueting with ideas.

Originally Published