Alive in the Wilderness
Label: Biophilia Records
Life on Earth; Wind; The Well; Fire; Zim; Spirit; Old Man; Creature; Heart; Water; Wolfhead; Air; Dance of the Bee; Dust; White Pond Sun; Moon; Prayer for the Earth.
Guitarist Jesse Lewis and bassist Ike Sturm offer songs and improvisations of transcendent beauty — recorded live in the desert wilderness of Southern Utah 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. Eight of the pieces on Alive in the Wilderness are co-composed by Lewis and Sturm, while nine tracks are free improvisations. On “Heart” and “Dust,” Sturm switches out the upright bass for acoustic bass guitar. Along with the expansive harmonies and buoyant lyricism of songs like “Life on Earth,” “White Pond Sun” and “Zim” (the last an homage from Lewis to his Zimbabwean inspirations Oliver Mtukudzi and Chiwoniso Maraire), we also hear sounds of nature throughout the recording, most particularly water. “We recorded by a waterfall, right next to a babbling brook, near streams and rivers,” the guitarist recalls. “We chose the locations near water for the more relaxed and flowing songs, and the edgier songs tended to be dry and high altitude [for example, “Heart”]. That’s what the project is all about, those moments when nature becomes a part the music.”
- Alive in the Wilderness by Angelo Leonardi
- Alive in the Wilderness by Geno Thackara
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