Shelf Life w/ Eckhard Gerdes
Scuff Mud (CD)
Journal of Experimental Fiction 2007

1) a couple of starts
2) z. buzz
3) in the fern fen
4) snark
5) song of a strapping young man
6) hints
7) new president
8) uh hunh
9) blues for osiris
10) will evolves still
11) scuff mud
12) woodwork
13) wouldn't you know
14) the burial of t.s. acrostic
15) adam amongst the elephants in the sonoran desert

Shelf Life: Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Alex Boardman, Andrew Perdue, Jay Schleidt + Eckhard Gerdes


(City Weekly) Have you ever wondered what it would sound like to translate the brain waves of a long-term coma patient into sound waves? Ever wonder what happens when a schizophrenic dictates his diary over the soundtrack of a sci-fi movie from 1973? A listen to "Scuff Mud," a Journal of Experimental Fiction release from author Eckhard Gerdes and experimental noise outfit Shelf Life, just might answer those burning questions while leaving you with a whole lot more. If you are looking to rock out, then keep looking because "SM" is far from the typical new-release indie rock fare you may be accustomed to reading about in these pages. If you are looking for a challenging yet engaging vacation from your everyday musical routine, then read on.Basically, what we have here is the poetry of Gerdes spoken over a soundscape created by Shelf Life. Subject matter ranges from Middle Eastern affairs to sex and relationships to the "out-of-placeness" of elephants in the Sonoran Desert, and the mood ranges from the very serious to the rather silly to the overtly risqué: "I'll spend my fuel rod on you / Can you feel its bulge against you?" intones Gerdes early on in the fantastical journey that is "SM." The closest comparison I can come up with to something in fairly wide distribution would be the extended soliloquies of Robert E. Lee and Mary Todd Lincoln in Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's section of the multi-composer early '80s epic "the CIVIL warS", although that avant-garde masterpiece at times seems downright pedestrian compared to this. Overall, "SM" actually makes for a very entertaining listen and it is definitely worth tracking down a copy. The disc is available from and you can visit JEF online at to learn more. - Ian Simons

(Ampersand Etcetera) OK - the last of the current Shelf Life/Bryan Day related releases. This one is out through JEF (the Journal of Experimental Fiction, edition 36) which is curated by Gerdes, a writer of a number of novels. On the album Gerdes reads 15 pieces to a Shelf Life background (who are Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Alex Boardman, Andrew Perdue, Jay Schleidt on this outing). I haven't read any of Gerdes writing, but the selection here is excellent for this medium. There is variety between pieces which depend on rhythms and rhymes, extended stories and dislocating word play through substitution. For example, z. buzz is full of word mastications, woodwork uses construction terms in a salacious double entendre, uh hunh uses a blues tick at the line ends, blues for osiris is a rhymed retelling of the Egyptian myth. Lists and repetition occur, rhymes can be almost McGonagallian (a compliment). His voice is mellow and rounded, carrying the material with gravitas, particularly when at its most amusing silliest. Even if you don't listen to the words the timbre and cadences are musical. And the material is memorable - when I replayed it after some time when I got to the story new president I was sure I had read it somewhere. This is also the longest track (7 minutes) of a short (45 minute) 15 tracker. There is even a seeming structure to the set, from the opening description of a desert image in a couple of starts to the closing surreal dream in adam among the elephants in the Sonoran desert. As to the music, this is my favourite Shelf Life to date - on a number of scores. The instrument range is the broadest - including flute, voice, guitar, twanging things, electronics, percussion, samples, trombone and probably more. And the constraint of short pieces (I am not sure if these were specifically recorded or are excerpts from longer works) provides a perfect platform for appreciating the SL-sound. The setting on new president is relatively restrained allowing the story to flow, while snark is noisy which suits the l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e abstraction of the poem. At times the music develops with the words: wouldn't you know builds from shimmering electronics into jittery guitar as what was a seeming narrative goes into abstraction and then a sequence of past tense extrapolations (band is the past tense of bane); or the growth of industrial tones around the nonsense of the title track. A few times (most obviously in woodwork, but also wouldn't you know) there are voice samples which, through their restraint, enhance the mood. I am not a great one for spoken-word albums, but the words and music are equals here - and that indeed the music provides a way into the words which would be less accessible on the page - providing a very satisfying audio experience. - Jeremy Keens