The Lentils - Budget Alchemy

12″ Lathe edition of 27. Numbered.  Original one of a kind cover art by Luke Csehak.

OUT OF PRINT – Also available on cassette / digital from Flower Sounds 

There’s a type of vanity that masquerades as ‘good taste’ in the world of recorded music. It suggests a musical teleology of a band’s recorded output which progresses from the lofi salad days to the hifi times of ‘clear intentions’ and ‘marked improvements’. Over time we come to expect these refinements as a type of courtesy to the industry at large. These progressions are often blandly linear, smoothly executed by so called ‘competent actors’ and showcase the holistic capture of our productive forces, pushing us to desire the refinement of affects. You undoubtedly know what I’m talking about. It’s the skeletal structure that all ‘good music artists’ follow as they froth deeper into the mirage of worldly success. You can see that pattern clearly when panning for lost stages of forgone refinement through the holy sedimentary layers of your local bargain bin. But not all that glimmers there is gold, and if one squints just the right way you might sense the pull of the opalescent Budget Alchemy by the Lentils, beckoning you to explore its earthly pulse. This humble lathe of heaven for your consideration, is a pearl that has taken Luke Czehack a lifetime, but to the uninitiated can come off as another diary entry in the song that never ends. But The Lentils have refined their pursuit. The Lentils move forward by curling back inwards. The Lentils have a style. The Lentils sound like The Lentils. Their shifts over the years have been subtle, moving at a geological / glacial pace, and thats what makes them exceptional, albeit difficult to capture in the whims of fashion’s constant need for innovation for its own sake.

The thing about The Lentils is also true about lentils (the food themselves). You can say there are many lentils, and you would be right to say that! But you could also say there is really only one lentil that comes in different forms. Imagine, there is a pile of lentils, and you say “hey, that’s a heap of lentils there!”, and you’d be right! But take out a handful of lentils and you’d still have a heap! Whatever strange process that slips betwixt our perceptions of magnitudes and multitudes seems to be the invisible hand that guides our fair protagonist, Luke Czehack’s oeuvre. You could say there are many Lentils albums, or you could say there is really only one. It could be your favorite one, it could remind you of the norm core days of college 2009, stoned lazing on the quad in the autumn, when the fireflies turned into dust before your very eyes. But of course, in 2022, those days are well behind us, but our protagonist still plods away ever-churning his spindle of sheep’s wool into golden braids of wolf’s clothing (as the prophecy foretold). Luke reminds me most of an ornamented character living in the letter L of his own illuminated manuscripts, calmly tooting his tuba while repositioning the parameters of a style that is at once timeless, and totally unique to him no matter where he is – be it Brattleboro, VT or Los Angeles, CA. I suppose the cost of that vision is that there is a looming style to The Lentils, and that style could come back into fashion, but it just as well may not. The Lentils may just continue upon their own strange path of refinement for the enjoyment of those who still remember how it hit the first time. But don’t get it twisted folks! Luke’s not a willfully obscure “champion of the lesser dance”, he’s just doing his thing, so “keep his portrait in plastic”, man, it’ll be worth something someday. 

But not everything’s ‘the same’, that would be a complete oversimplification, totally unfair, and absolutely not what I’m saying! If anything, nothing is the same at all! Entire planets are shifting orbits in strange and far flung new directions! For one, Luke’s chord progressions have developed into something new and quite unexpected, moving from a detuned twee damaged velvet underground-ism to something now more reminiscent of a long lost Syd Barrett masterpiece. This is a deep development in the harmonic lattice work since the early Jawbone days. These newly jerky chord motions show a different ascent for The Lentils; half “Dolly Rocker”, a smidge of “Chapter 24”, a heap of “Astronomy Domine”, and set to some sprawling interstellar spider bass playing, (adorned in the same lofi bullian of patented oblivion Luke specializes in). It’s the type of writing that could drive one insane if it wasn’t for Luke’s clarity of vision and timeless style… The madcap hears all this and laughs. But of course the fields of madness are wide, rabbit holes are even connected, and darn if it isn’t every songwriters give-god-den birthright to explore the hidden world under our feet. The frames though, that’s whats been moving, ever so slightly over the years. But with Budget Alchemy you can hear the bell toll’s Tok-tik clicking loud and clear, shifting into the next paradigm. What’s old, and always been, has reignited itself in the present and become new, yet again. 

– Omeed Goodarzi

Example of a half of the original covers


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