Shelf Life
Ductworks (CD)
Public Eyesore 2006

1) tkcrdsuow
2) cuswokdrt
3) wkuctdrso
4) rctuwdsko
5) sotukwdrc
6) okrtswcud
7) ktcudwsro
8) otkwcsrdu
9) souwrtkdc
10) rtcsowkud
11) kousrtdwc
12) wcdrksuot
13) rdstkoucw

Shelf Life: Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Alex Boardman, Jay Schleidt


(Smother) Discordant noise and dishelmed ambience seems to percolate for a while on Shelf Life's "Ductworks". Oddly crafted like an acid flashback gone terribly awry, "Ductworks" seems to live up to its name by piping in air and seasoning it with the miasma of eeriness that is everyday noises. Ubiquitous sounds (hell these could be filtered found sounds or crazily pieced together instruments for all I know), when combined and re-translated using a myriad of effects, truly can sound less than chaotic--almost melodic--and that's precisely the recipe that makes Shelf Life's "Ductworks" work out so nicely. - J-Sin

(Dead Angel) I see we're in the land of the cryptic again -- the minimal liner notes reveal nothing about who does what in this quartet (Brian Day, A. Boardman, Jay Schleidt, and J. Jaros), and the thirteen tracks all have titles consisting of random letters (for instance, the first track is called "tkcrdsuow"), although the scanty info does note that this material was recorded from 2/06 - 7/06 at Platteform, Omaha. The sound itself is one entirely familiar to the PE back catalog, the sound of unfettered, clattering improvisation using a variety of instruments. This is one of the more subdued improv outings; there's plenty of odd sounds and cacaphonous activity, but very little of it is loud or abrupt. There's some interesting sounds here, certainly, but it's definitely not for the uninitiated. Day mixed the material and the entire band edited it, and the results sound good, with a pleasing sense of flow. The tracks sound more like variations of the same concept -- making strange and often unpredictable sounds with the gadgets at hand -- and while there's plenty of energy here, there's also a certain level of sameness to the tracks that would doubtless be daunting to anyone approaching the mysteries of free-form improv for the first time. - RKF

(Sea of Tranquity) An ensemble featuring Public Eyesore artists B. Day, A. Boardman, J. Jaros and J.Schleidt proves to be similar to Day's work as Sistrum and / or Eloine in a seemingly more spontaneous and live context. Ductworks is essentially preoccupied with sound, falling into the broad category of noise and the general embrace of the avant garde. It is timbral, textural and organically shaped, flashing in and out of coherence in ways that imply some organizational approach that perhaps the titles hint at: reordering elements as an editorial execution of typical theme and variation. Or not: in some ways, given the ensemble form and the overriding rule that no source or instrument be played as an instrument, the listener experiences the same sort of proximity effects of self-sorting structures and self-limiting divergences and correspondences that derive from any limited set of any number of components. That said, there is a clear range of expression at work in the mantling and dismantling of the sounds and their deployment. The thirteen pieces share as many dissimilarities in timbre, texture, pacing and range as they share similarities. By no means minimal, the four artists generate a remarkable and convincing thicket of sounds, remaining amusical throughout. The simplest analogy that comes to mind brings us back to Fred Frith's ever more important Guitar Solos: only here with more than one sound source and more chamber-like than solo. - Kerry Leimer

(Delusions of Adequecy) This one is a difficult album to digest. Ductworks, by Shelf Life, consists largely of stringed instruments (of the improvised kind, sometimes) being scraped, bowed, plucked, stretched, and otherwise manipulated. Be warned: it is a collection of sounds and not of songs. Ductworks could has the ambience of Main's Dry Stone Feed with the experimentalism of John Zorn slowed to within an inch of its life. The four musicians on this recording sometimes employed snippets of delayed electronics and wind instruments, just in case the sound wasn't alien enough. The compositional approach employs little bits of sound here and there. No melodies, verse, or chorus to anchor you. No two sounds repeated. No sustained bits. Shelf Life is avant-garde absurdism - brave in its iconoclasm. It's hard to tell quite what the band members are after. But the overall effect of Ductworks makes you start asking questions about sound and music. Because it's a little disorienting, it takes some time to adjust your expectations and just listen. And if you're patient enough you may hear things from Shelf Life that you weren't expecting. - David Smith

(Kathodik) Disco enigmatico ed indecifrabile, come i titoli delle tracce, tutte costruite anagrammando la parola Ductworks, per questo quintetto capitanato da Bryan Day, tra l'altro anche responsabile della label licenziataria. Le note del cd non dicono assolutamente nulla sulla strumentazione usata, anche se pare accertata la presenza di percussioni, chitarre, e forse violoncello e sax. Poco importa, tanto la musica é completamente votata alla completa dissoluzione di qualsiasi forma di struttura esecutiva, e la stessa suddivisione in tracce pare principalmente una comodità offerta all'ascoltatore. Volendo dare delle coordinate di riferimento (non affidabili), pensate a frammenti di AMM, Dead C, ma anche No Neck Blues Band, lasciati a decomporsi immersi in qualche sostanza altamente corrosiva per uscirne completamente straziati. Niente rumore folle, come forse fin quanto scritto farebbe pensare, Shelf Life non sono terroristi armati di decibel e/o ritmi forsennati, ma preferiscono distillare con calma il loro surreale mantra fatto di rumorismi, incartocciamenti, scivolamenti e crolli, tutto proposto con un ottica obliqua e lunare. Più che musicisti, i membri del gruppo sembrano degli artigiani folli, nascosti nell'oscurità del retrobottega, assorti in un incessante lavorio finalizzato alla costruzione di qualche manufatto incomprensibile. La musica è in costante movimento, ma sceglie di non andare da nessuna parte, non insegue nessuna direzione, non costruisce nessun climax, semplicemente esiste e tanto basta.. Per un po' potete anche smettere di prestarle attenzione, relegarla in background, quasi fosse una sorta di ambient impro-dark-noisy, senza comprometterne l'efficacia. Devo dire che questo disco mi piace molto, ha un suo fascino non trascurabile e una sua perversa originalità: si agita, si contorce, si lamenta, rumoreggia, ma con discrezione. Come una bestia malevola che ti osserva sbadigliando da dietro le sbarre della sua gabbia. - Alfio Castorina

(ITDE) "Ductworks" finds Public Eyesore Records honcho Bryan Day with collaborators Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros, and Jay Schleidt; working in a truly egalitarian manner to fashion an effortlessly unruffled recording. Unfortunately, the somewhat calm nature of the disc may turn off casual listeners. Pay attention, you suckers- it is for exactly this quality that I can declare "Ductworks" a real success. Let's face it, improvisational music sometimes hits a few 'behavioral lock grooves,' where its an open secret that what is occurring sounds like improv, but is really a re-hash of What Worked Before. Even the overall tone of a performance can fall prey to this sort of repetition- proceeding from quiet to loud everytime, working to create a "dark" sound time and time again... it's cheating the improv spirit, and it is my opinion that this makes it even more difficult to appreciate some real improv when you come across it. Of course, I'm thinking of "Ductworks" as I write this. No, it doesn't seem to have an overarching theme. No, it's not a showy display of dramatic guitar runs or sax blowing. So why listen? For starters, check how fully these musicians explore their instruments! I'm not sure of everything that's being played, but I can assure you that whatever it is, it's being squeezed for the last drop of sound available! It's also very enjoyable to hear such a 'real' album- listeners will easily be able to place themselves within the performance, which is strikingly immediate without being at all in your face. Recommended. - DaveX

(Ampersand Etcera) Shelf Life - Bryan Day, Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros and Jay Schleidt from various States and different groups - started in 2003 (by the first two) and has gradually developed over the years. The instruments include guitars, stringed things, percussion, electronics, reeds, Theremin, sampler, contact mikes etc. In 2006 they spent 2 days a week improvising in Bryan's Omaha apartment studio to produce 80 hours of material - edited down to 80 minutes for Ductworks (public eyesore pecd107). This is, therefore, quite an unusual improv album. They usually seem to be recorded in a day and we get ebbs and flows, crescendos and noise. The selection of the 13 tracks (titled with some anagrams of ductworks) seems to focus on stasis and mood. The selections are 2-8 minutes long and combine the same range of sounds (scrapes feedback percussion electronics somevoices bowing picking clatter twinkling mellotron-tones) so that without concentrating you don't notice one piece changing to the next. However they do have different flavours or moods with different elements highlighted or collected. It is therefore some of the more ambient improv I have heard, with a steady subtlety that makes it quite distinct. I found myself warming to this more and more as I replayed it and I am sure it will be a favourite. A fine work. (a strange indicator of the smallness of the world - this comes in a card sleeve printed in the Ukraine) - Jeremy Keens

(Vital Weekly) Shelf Life is Brian Day's most important musical venture today, besides of course running Public Eyesore. Shelf Life is a quartet of musicians, besides Day, there is also A. Boardman, J. Jaros and J. Schleidt. The cover doesn't list any instruments, but I believe to hear a saxophone, one or more guitars, a short wave and some sort of percussion. They are played in a true improvised manner: hit it and see what comes out. They pluck, hit, strumm their instruments in what turns out to be an endless stream of sounds. Thirteen pieces in total, although it's hard to say when a piece ends and when a new one begins. This is my main objection against this release: the dynamic level is not very high, so everything happens on more or less the same level, which is a pity, since it makes it a bit too much in a free form mass of sound. Some more mixing could have helped. Unless of course the idea was to have a total democratic sound, and not have one to play the leading part. If that was their goal, they succeeded in that very well. - Frans de Waard

(Aiding and Abetting) Brian Day leads this quartet of creaky noisesters (two of the others are also in Eloine) through the belly of a boat on a long ocean crossing. Lots of snaps, crackles, pops and screaks. I don't really get the sense of a larger message here, but these pieces sure sound cool. The sound of ancient machines. - Jon Worley

(Losing Today) Shelf Life comprise messrs. Brian Day, Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros and Jay Schleidt, who might otherwise be known as the four horsemen of the avant-garde apocalypse. Together they create music in its loosest sense, for which every sound is incidental and rhythm, melody and form are alien concepts. So, what we are presented with are thirteen tracks (each ingeniously titled as an anagram of 'Ductworks') that contain various scratches, plucks and clangs, along with aural simulations of what appear to represent water draining down a plughole, creaking doors, zippers being unzipped etc. etc. The tools used for the purpose include various homemade electronic instruments, prepared guitar, and by the sound of it, a guest appearance by a reluctant donkey, whose tortured moans make brief appearances throughout. By the end you'll be left feeling quite sorry for the poor old thing. When they do approach a noise that could be considered coherent in traditional musical terms, as with the string driven drone toward the end of 'Custwodkrt', it mostly serves to unsettle, but then this music is obviously not intended to make comfortable listening. It is twisted sonic alchemy that makes for an album that is aptly titled in the sense that it represents the kind of creeping malelovance that would soundtrack X-files villain Eugene Tooms murderous crawl through an air shaft. Listen with one eye open. - Richard Stokoe

(Foxy Digitalis) Bryan Day is the prime mover behind both the band and the label; joined by Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros, and Jay Schleidt, "Ductworks" finds him working through a thirteen song set that is somber and monochromatic, with the overall effect being that of a wall of static sound. Individual instruments are hard to discern, as are tempo and volume changes. At best this minimalist drone, where the rewards come from repeated listening. The down side is that the repetition of the groove sounds less intentional and improvised, and more like a programmed loop that someone forgot to check on from time to time. But if you dig a low brooding hum that never does get itchy to speak up, this is a set for you. It works, and has more than its share of sublime moments, but monotony as an aesthetic was old when Cage found it. - Mike Wood

(Babysue) Shelf Life is an experimental noise if you're not into that kind of thing, forewarned. This band was begun by Bryan Day and Alex Boardman in 2003 which resulted in the release of their first album shortly thereafter (One to Seven). Over time the band expanded to a four piece that now includes Joseph Jaros and Jay Schleidt. These fellows record what many would call non-music. The sounds are accidental in nature and there are no identifiable melodies to speak of. Rather than creating a harsh wall of noise like many twenty-first century experimental artists, these fellows' compositions are, for the most part, rather subdued and subtle. In some ways, these pieces sound like noises you might hear coming from your neighbor's place. Odd and unpredictable, Ductworks is geared toward a very esoteric audience to be certain. Our guess is that John Cage may have been a major influence here (?). It's hard to rate this kind of thing, so we'll let you draw your own conclusions on this one... - LMNOP

(Ragazzi) Geräuschmusik kann Humor haben. Etwa, wenn der Vierer Joseph Jaros, Jay Schleidt, Bryan Day und Alex Boardman sich als Shelf Life ins Studio, an echte Instrumente, Laptops und allerlei andere Tonquellen begeben. Konventionelle Töne erschaffen sie nicht, auch nicht so etwas wie eine vorgegebene Musikstruktur. Die Stücke auf der CD, 13 an der Zahl, mit seltsamen Namen, die pausenlos ineinander übergehen und nur als Jux, so nehme ich an, unterteilt worden sind, vielleicht auch, weil verschiedene Etappen des "Jammens" aufgezeichnet wurden, die nahtlos auf die CD gebracht wurden, sammeln Geräusche. Töne. Elektronische, akustische, natürliche, künstliche, allerlei Töne. Hier ist mal eine Stimme zu vernehmen, oder ein Schlucken, Knurren oder Zungeschnalzen, dort mal der Ton eines Saxophones; Perkussion, Synthetisches. Es kommt nicht auf den einzelnen Ton an, es ist die Menge aller Töne, die die Musik macht. Und es ist die Stimmung, die Gefühle auslöst. So ist etwa Track 7 mit einer entspannten, melancholischen Stimmung ausgestattet, die sich aus lauten und seltsamen Tönen zusammensetzt, da scheinen Schiffshupen und Metallkratzen ihre harschen wie elektronische ihre hohen oder Perkussion ihre hypnotisierenden Geräusche ins Spiel gebracht zu haben. Alles für sich unangenehm, Schmerz auslösend. Als Arrangement jedoch, als Gemeinklang, entspannend, einschläfernd geradezu. Die vier inspirierten Tonschöpfer haben bereits 4 CDs dieser Art vollgestopft. Sie haben einen Draht zueinander und können gemeinsam Töne erfinden und verbinden, die als "Musik" einen Klang, eine Klangsprache haben. Gewiss würde einer der Musiker ausreichen, allerlei Lärm auf CD zu bannen. Und es ist gewiss keine Kunst, die genaue Perfektion braucht, dieserart Klänge lebendig zu gestalten. Im freien improvisativen Genre ist nicht die Lauterkeit des einzelnen Tones, ist der Gemeinklang das Ziel. Und Humor? Wieso Humor? Weil die Ansammlung der Töne, was man hört, wenn man sich darauf einlässt, bisweilen kuriose Haken und Winkel schlägt und eine Art Struktur zieht, die in diesem Klang, mit jenem Laut komisch wirkt. Braucht es dazu Gehör, Gespür? Geschickte Hände? Gewiss, letztlich ist alles Musik. Klänge aber zu komprimieren und eine bestimmte Fülle davon in einen zeitlichen Rahmen zu bannen, der "klingt", braucht Gespür. "Ductworks" beweist es. - Volkmar Mantei

(Addreviews) Spooky, dreamlike noise collages to haunt and captivate. - Laze

(KZSU Zookeeper) Improv, experimental, almost downtown jazz avante in that its mostly acoustic instruments, "home-made stringed instruments and prepared guitar", bursting forth in spastic manners. Most tracks similar in that fashion; chill and sparse mostly, so no real track by track review here. - Your Imaginary Friend

(Improvijazzation Nation) What a perfectly appropriate re-entry into the review biz... Bryan Day sent this one, which was recorded in Omaha... Features Bryan, A. Boardman, J. Jaras & J. Schleidt in the kinds of sets I used to participate when I first started improvising (way back in the late 1970's... this outing has far more electronics than were available when we were doing such jams, but listeners who crave after music that strays from the "norm", & challenges the aural appendages will find this quite pleasing. Lots of little "grinders" in/out/under/through the guitar strums, percussive surprises & great sounds (that you'd never hear on a "conventional" jam session) that make repeated listens a must... you'll discover something you hadn't heard each time you listen. Is this "jazz"? - decidedly NOT... is it interesting? Quite SO - but your mind (as well as your ears) must be prepared for a taste of strange. This will serve as a great intro for those uninitiated in the joys of discovery that fine improv can inspire. I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly if you are in for some well-crafted sonic adventure. - Rotcod Zzaj

(Touching Extremes) One of the most unclassifiable albums met recently is this collection of introverted improvisations by Shelf Life, the quartet of Bryan Day, Alex Boardman, Joseph Jaros and Jay Schleidt. They don't list instruments on the cover, and that's only the starting point; the thirteen tracks are all named with an anagram of the CD title, and we can survive that. Then this poor reviewer slipped the disc in and pressed "play", and there's not a similarity, a distantly associable genre or even a single clue about what this music sounds like. Mostly based on electric guitar tampering, for sure, yet also comprising an awful lot of different emissions tending to the low-key scrape, buzz, groan and fuzz, this material is truly excellent in its total closure towards stylistic and harmonic (?) compromise. The uncorrupted freedom of expression supported by these guys does not yell or scream, but creeps all over the place in a fascinating manner, all those digestible disturbances accepted as a welcome presence whatever the occasion (I even tried it amidst the kitchen's noises while my wife and I were preparing for dinner, and it went great - she loved it, and me too). This record could be a nice answer to wallpaper ambient, as it certainly results lively and intelligent to these ears. Another fine example of the utter unpredictability of Public Eyesore's intentions. - Massimo Ricci