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Ari Lehtela — The Year the Earth Stood Still
(Tela Guitar No #, 2021, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2021-08-07

The Year the Earth Stood Still Cover art Originally from Finland, Lehtela has been making music professionally in the USA and Canada for over 30 years. Today he is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Around 1990 Letehla’s interests turned to luthiery – building stringed hybrid instruments of various kinds, which continues to this day. He also runs a luthiery school, where courses in both instrument building and maintenance / repair are taught at several levels. As a recording artist, one thing Lehtela cannot be accused of is glutting the market with product, in fact this is only his second album following 2007’s West Eats Meat, a trio project of electric jazz-fusion-meets-world sounds where Lehtela uses many of his unusual instrument creations, but that said it was still far more conventional than the album at hand. Fourteen years on we have The Year the Earth Stood Still, twelve tracks inspired by the year 2020 and the pandemic that came with it, though work on this album pre-dates it, and one only has to give it one listen all the way through to realize that this album wasn’t put together overnight; in fact I would venture to guess this album was a good four years or more in the making. Within these twelve cuts Lehtela gets to perform on many of his unusual instruments, a short list would include setar, sarod, saz, shabas, 1x/2x Longneck Tela Golden Ratio, Hybrid Tango (please visit his site for more details on these and many other of his creations) alongside more conventional instruments like nylon string guitar, bass guitar, piano, synth, and string-harp. And he’s not working alone either, as the album features drummer Dave Bullard and saxophonist Tom Harling, who also did the recording, mixing, and mastering. Tracks like “Blursdays,” “Pandemonium,” “Conflicting Reports,” and the title track offer a sound that a listener might suspect is mainly improvisation, at the very least avant-garde noodling, neo-classical and experimental, but the result is very listenable, never a harsh moment to be found, though never any kind of steady beat or groove either. Fans of Fred Frith, or Harry Partch – another instrument builder from long ago, may find a home in Lehtela’s magical soundworld.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Ari Lehtela

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