When Endless Field , the “ambient Americana” (NPR) acoustic duo of guitarist Jesse Lewis and bassist Ike Sturm , released its eponymous debut on Biophilia in 2017, the album was hailed by Downbeat for its “awe-inspired tranquility,” evoking “distant horizons and airy, windswept melodies.” Endless Field received a four-star review and was included among Downbeat’s Best of 2017.
“Distant horizons” indeed: when Lewis and Sturm contemplated their follow-up effort, they hatched plans for an album recorded wholly outdoors, in remote locations of rare and stunning beauty. After arduous logistical planning, they ventured into the sweeping, endangered wilderness of Southern Utah to record Alive in the Wilderness , their second Biophilia release.
With a solar-powered recording rig, an engineer deeply committed to the project ( Dana Nielsen ), and National Geographic photographers and videographers to document every performance (each track has an accompanying video), Lewis and Sturm pushed themselves to the physical limit, yet arrived at moments of pure inspiration, elevated calm and clarity of musical intent.
Lewis plays intricate finger-style lines, fleet improvisations and ambient textures on steel-string acoustic guitar, while Sturm’s warm, capacious upright bass tone (you can practically hear the desert air filling up his instrument) gives even the most ethereal music a strong backbone. In addition, both Lewis and Sturm play homemade foot percussion rigs (heard clearly on such pieces as “Zim,” “Heart” and “Dance of the Bee”), with added sonic color and momentum from Lewis’ bells and cymbals.
Here is the premiere of the video shot for “Heart,” which was filmed in the beautiful wilderness of Southern Utah:
Says Endless Field bassist Ike Sturm, “We recorded an original song called ‘Heart’ in a remote slot canyon in southern Utah, accessible only through a grueling hike through the sand. We made multiple trips in near 100 degree temperatures, with our instruments, camera gear, and solar-powered recording rig. The canyon is situated several hundred feet up, and the only location for the audio tent was down below the cliff. When we stretched the 100-foot cable snake, we had only one foot remaining, barely reaching the small plateau where we recorded. We had to be extremely cautious with our instruments and gear on the climb up to our location, and we felt a rush as we played the song in such a precarious and exhilarating environment. Listening back that night, we were shocked to hear the faster, more urgent tempo and feel of the song. The adrenaline coursing through us on the edge of the canyon brought this music into a new light.” He continues, “My acoustic bass guitar is a Tacoma Thunderchief 5-string—strung E-C, low to high, with a capo on the top four strings at the 7th fret. We recorded it acoustically using two condenser mics, plus a DI into a solar-battery-powered ProTools rig.”
To underscore their commitment to environmental activism and the preservation of these treasured American landscapes, Lewis and Sturm are donating all proceeds from Alive in the Wilderness to the Natural Resources Defense Council . “We want to help support their work combating climate change and protecting the very wilderness areas where we recorded,” Lewis remarks. “We want this album to create awareness and inspire action.”
For more visit: Endless Field