by: Michael Shields
An introduction to the serenity-inducing world of Endless Field, an extremely talented duo comprised of guitarist Jesse Lewis and bassist Ike Sturm…
The sounds of nature are of a curious brand. Almost without exception, the harmonies of the natural environment are uniquely entrancing and mollifying. A flow of a stream scintillates and soothes. A chirp of a bird alerts and enchants. The whisp of a breeze through towering pine trees is a reminder of the the overwhelming might of nature’s sinuous breath, a thought both daunting and reassuring. While many musicians have attempted to “bottle” the soundscapes of the natural world to varying degrees of success, no act that I have come upon has managed to echo nature’s rhythms in as pacifying and beguiling a manner as Endless Field, a graceful, talented instrumental guitar and bass duo from New York comprised of Jesse Lewis and Ike Sturm.
Endless Field, the self-titled debut album released on Biophilia Records, finds this duo of longtime collaborators invoking the harmonies of nature in a crisp and thoughtful fashion. In an interview with The Observer, Lewis and Sturm wax poetically on the soothing and provoking qualities of nature, avowing that “the natural environment can be a calming place, helping us to become reconnected to the essential parts of life. The silence often found in the wild gives us a space to focus and listen more closely to the sounds that are driving us.”
Crafting the majority of the album while tucked deep in the Catskill Mountains, this ode to the cosmos that is Endless Fields features a potent array of guests including Donny McCaslin (“Supermoon”), Ingrid Jensen (“Airglow”), Nadje Noordhuis, Chris Dingman, Fabian Almazan and Rich Stein. Often-times haunting, invariably airy, blissful, and surprisingly revitalizing like a peaceful hike through the woods, Endless Field is a expedition to another realm. It’s an album that has the ability to transport the listener wholly to another place, one that is alluring and altogether beautiful. While Endless Field could easily provide the ideal background music for cooking or a dinner party, its complexity also fashions itself as an album to fully immerse oneself in, where giving the entirety of your being over to it is an experience that is both moving and deeply inspiring.
It is interesting to note that Endless Field was purposefully released with Biophilia Records, a forward and profoundly environmentally focused jazz-indie label. Strictly speaking biophilia means “an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems,” and while Biophilia surely vets an array of gifted and imaginative acts, it ensures that its artists are “united by a common interest in having a positive impact on the environment and our communities” and that they “collaborate with organizations that specialize in conservation, sustainability and outreach initiatives and regularly volunteer hands-on in community events.” In this way Jesse Lewis and Ike Sturm’s sensibilities are thoroughly represented through their music and label with Endless Field, a meaningful celebration of the natural environment.
Nature, and submersion within its embrace, compels the thoughtful amongst us to consider the vastness of the world in which we live. It too, in this light, serves as a reminder of how small we are in the scheme of it all. But this line of thought effortlessly veers onto the fact that we aren’t simply observers of the natural system, but a part of its workings, even if simply dust in the wind of time. It’s hard not to believe that there is some underlying form of connection between all things, and that we as humans are part of some immense web of interrelationships. It is ideas like these that, I believe, can help bring the human race together, as surely we are all in this together and part of something bigger than even the brightest amongst us can fully get our head around. Beyond nature, music too has a power to help us band together, and the combination of these two unifiers can be found within Endless Field demonstrating this capability. Lewis and Sturm are tapped into nature’s potency, and harvest it in a way that “encourages people to breathe, relax, reflect, listen or find quiet.” This unique and novel combination of acoustic jazz, folk and ambient music holds within it a portal into nature, resulting in an album that is rife with beauty and wondrous depth.