Jussi Lehtisalo

Musician. Artist. Philosopher. Obsessive. Enthusiast. Innovator. Bullshitter. Joker. Gentleman. Beast. These are only a few of the paradoxical faces of the underground cottage industry known as Jussi Lehtisalo.In 1991, this proud native of Pori, Finland, swaggered into the public eye via a self-released 7-inch by a hypnotic little project called Circle. Since then he’s served as the group’s sole constant, shepherding ever-changing personnel and filtering deliberately repetitive riffs through dozens of rock and non-rock idioms. Add in a bevy of insanely varied, albeit somehow congruent satellite bands—Ektroverde, Eturivi, Kirvasto, Pharaoh Overlord, Lusiferiinin Armosta, Slussenanalys, Split Cranium, and scores more—and his cottage industry becomes an empire. Pile on the independent record labels he operates—Ektro, Full Contact, Super Metsä, and Ruton—and that empire expands into a cosmos.Despite his ceaseless activity, Lehtisalo’s first proper solo LP, the subdued, introspective Rotta, didn’t appear until 2010. Shying away from ego and excess, the album evokes a dimly lit stroll down snowdrift-clotted city streets where an unabated wind carries the familiar but vaguely sinister chatter of eccentrics, drunks, animals, and ghosts.The schizophrenic follow-up, Interludes for the Prepared Beast, takes yet another abrupt left turn. With a title that references (and perhaps parodies) John Cage’s piano molestations, Lehtisalo’s latest effort scans like a transcription of his own central nervous system. Each side of vinyl comprises an unpredictable 17-minute suite that fidgets and sprawls in a neon procession of stabbing fuzz guitars and clacking, rattlesnake percussion. Noise, prog, metal, punk, ambient, and electronic fragments stutter, shift, and melt beneath an abstract sun. During key moments, a benevolent ogre chants random absurdities before glassine synths and psychedelic sound effects drag him out to sea. Aggression yields to serenity, restlessness cedes to calm, and destruction gives birth to bliss. Hallelujah.Of course, it’s impossible to tell if this organic blurring of styles, moods, and emotions arose from revelatory thoughts and painstaking labor, or if Lehtisalo merely got lucky one evening while devouring pizza and guzzling beer in the studio. But that, my friend, is simply the nature of the beast.