If you know the name Josh Evert, it’s almost assuredly as either the singer-keyboardist of synth-pop stalwarts The Fatty Acids or as the drummer for fuzzed-out Great Lakes surf rock staple Jaill. Recently, however, Evert took a little time away from his decidedly electric endeavors to make a sonic detour and a literal detour into the Nebraska wilderness for a collection of nature-incorporating field recordings called Not Uninhabited.
Evert was accepted into an artist-in-residency program at Homestead National Monument through the National Park Service after submitting a proposal for an idea where he’d combine sounds he captured from the rural surrounding with traditional instruments and vocals to create experimental compositions. Over the course of the two-week residency in Beatrice, Nebraska, Evert roamed the prairie and recorded birds, frogs, and crickets. He recorded water flowing, wind blowing, and sticks breaking. From there, he improvised instruments by taking samples of himself walking, drumming on hollow logs, hitting rocks together, and digging in the sand.
Once he returned home from the naturalist sojourn, he applied sparing keyboard, acoustic guitar, and vocals. Milwaukee rapper/filmmaker WC Tank also wrote, recorded and submitted a verse for “Underground Since Birth.” Evert says the experiment was inspired by John Luther Adams’ “Birdsong” and the project had the intention “to contrast the positive aspects the Homestead Act of 1862 offered to some with the havoc it wreaked on indigenous peoples and the natural environment.”
While a musician recording in seclusion is a well-worn trope by this point, Not Uninhabited literally draws influence (not to mention direct instrumentation) from natural surroundings. In a sense, the prairie is a co-creator of the inventive seven-song release that finds both Evert and an empty field sounding unlike they ever have before.