Album Review of
The Year the Earth Stood Still

Written by Robert Silverstein
May 30, 2021 - 4:47pm EDT
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Based in the state of North Carolina, Ari Lehtela originally is from Finland, truly one of the best countries in Europe when it comes to outstanding guitarists and composers. Both a guitarist and composer as well as a master guitar builder, Ari released his West Eats Meat CD way back in 2007 and lo and behold he’s back in 2021 with the self-explanatorily titled album The Year The Earth Stood Still. Speaking about the concept behind The Year The Earth Stood Still, Ari explains, “This album was to be conceptual as opposed to a bunch of random cuts. As 2020 rolled in, and I was still cutting tracks, I made a decision to change the direction of the album to reflect what was going on in the world in that strange year. So basically the tracks, which were nearly 100% improvised, focused on my reflections and ponderings on the narrative and reporting from both the mainstream and alternative media. The Year The Earth Stood Still contains 12 tracks with each track reflecting the "flow" of the pandemic from month to month, and even day to day for that matter, in chronological order. Mind you that the improvisations were not cut in the order that they appear but rather arranged in a later stage to best reflect each month.” The kicker here is that The Year The Earth Stood Still was recorded with a range of string instruments built by Ari himself. Assisting Ari on the 12-track, 56 minute CD are Tom Harling (saxophones) and Dave Bullard (drums). Recorded, mixed and mastered by Tom Harling, The Year The Earth Stood Still is a veritable avant-garde masterpiece and the overall effect creates quite a beguiling mix of experimental instrumental music in the realm of the late great American instrument builder Harry Partch and in more recent years, U.K. born avant-garde rock guitarist Fred Frith. Yet make no mistake about it, on The Year The Earth Stood Still Ari Lehtela renews his own musical sense of direction. On The Year The Earth Stood Still, Ari plays a number of ultra-strange sounding instruments, that he actually built by hand himself, with even stranger sounding instrument names such as Search Engine 1x/2x, Hybrid Tango, Long Neck Tela, shabas, sarod (an instrument from India with this model built by Ari), a setar (featured on the track "Interlude" but built in Turkey), along with more easy to identify instruments like bass, synth, piano, harp, percussion and more. Music fans seeking out-of-this-world sounding experimental music in 2020 will delight in The Year The Earth Stood Still featuring the wildly curious sounds of master guitar craftsman and sonic designer Ari Lehtela.