Shelf Life
Concerning the Absence of Floors (CD-R)
Friends and Relatives 2008

1) obsolescence 5flb
2) obsolescence 5flc
3) obsolescence 1flk
4) obsolescence 1flo
5) obsolescence 2fld

Shelf Life: Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Luke Polipnick, Alex Boardman, Jay Kreimer


(Foxy Digitalis) This is the second disc that I have been treated to from Friends and Relatives Records and it totally blows the first one out of the water (see the DBH review). The recording is amazing, and the amount of focus and patience shown by the musicians involved is very impressive. Most of the five tracks on this disc clock in at around the 15 minute mark which is normally a bit of a deal breaker for me since very few people at the moment seem to have to ability to make an engaging track of this length. I know this is a pretty broad generalization, but the idea that length is equal to quality is a bad one, only quality is equal to quality and track length (or the lack thereof) should be ignored. Beginning with some percussive explorations at an almost inaudible level and then slowly introducing other instrumental elements (which due to the superb use of extended technique) I have had difficulty distinguishing, the first track builds at a very satisfying snail's crawl pace and continues on for nearly 17 minutes never quite climaxing, but leaving you waiting in eager anticipation even as the second track begins. Slowly the burble and hum of water and electricity take shape into yet another incredibly engaging improvisation that takes you every place you didn't know you wanted to go. The sonic palette sticks closely to the acoustic end of the spectrum although some of these sounds must be of electronic origin; they are delicately introduced so as not to destroy the balance and illusion of sculpting the air. I could go on and on and describe each track for you in lurid detail, but all you really need to know is that the whole album is this good, which is really really good. Get this and watch this label (if you haven't been already), they are a beacon of hope is a sea of mediocre CDR releases. Improvisation done this well never gets old. 9/10 - Kevin Richards

(Sea of Tranquility) A remarkably reassuring and integrated live set from the masters of noise, (concerning the absence of floors) accomplishes a more settled presence by contradicting its title and including a subtle sonic pad in several long stretches. Short of being a drone, or exhibiting drone density, the pedal nicely grounds the details of unpitched information, allowing the field to coalesce into an environment that seems better organized and less obtrusive because of it. When the pedal is removed, the absence is clearly noted. As seems typical of work by Bryan Day and his fellow artists, the sonic quality of the performance is wholly remarkable. In addition to the technical brilliance of the recording itself, the play with changes of scale and considered juxtaposition - making the barely audible clearly perceptible while resetting the perceptible in a new context and contrast - does a profound service to listeners by reclaiming the primacy of sound over the artifice of music. - Kerry Leimer

(Ampersand Etcetera) Another communication from improv ensemble Shelf Life made up of some combinations of Brian Day, Joseph Jaros, Alex Boardman, Luke Polipninck, Jay Kreimer and reviewed a few times here (october & december 2007). Playing guitar, percussion, electronics and more (no thing is listed on this album, but the sound suggests the sources from the past are continuing) they create dense pieces that, to my mind/ear, aspire to be considered as ambient music. They seem to decide on a mood or method for each piece and work within these constraints - which leads to a manageable consistency within tracks while allowing expansion across the album. This leads you to focus on the developing sounds and developments rather than the constant change and surprise that often drives improv albums.  Concerning the Absence of Floors is released by a label called Friends and relatives Records (po box 23, Bloomington, IN, 47402) but looks and sounds like an Eh? release, so could try from there also. The individual tracks are titled obsolescence. 5flb is the first and 5flc the second - which is pretty meaningless, which is the general rule with Shelf Life (one albums tracks were anagrams) s I won't repeat them all. This is an album that straddles ambience and noise - at high volume as you listen to extract the sounds, the noise is to the front, but when you lower the volume for more relaxed consideration it becomes gentler and more persuasive. Again, there seems to be a decided mood/method to each track which provides a unity and held mood. The first is perhaps more scrapey, clickey, some deep tones and percussiveness that loosens in the second half, while the second is more shooshing ambientish scrapes and tones. The fourth track has only 3 players on and has more space in it - fewer people to fill the void - and after a noise-laden first half a strange organ introduces a softer side which develops into an amorphous sound. The final track is again gentle - a venting, tapping, soft squiggles: the vent erupts but falls away, a slow pulse, shimmering and then a building feedback of noise before backing down to the end. The third track is scrapes and drones, electro and twanging pick, sound pulses buzzing, a gate closing, high squeaking voice sounds, beeps and mumbles building. Yeah - hard to describe! But as an improvised noise/ambient/wall-of-dense-sound adventure another satisfying release from Shelf Life. - Jeremy Keens

(Dead Angel) The band is a collective of drone 'n skronk enthusiasts -- Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Luke Polipnick, Alex Boardman, and Jay Kreimer -- recording in different configurations, and the five tracks here are different explorations of the combination of near-random noisemaking and drone aesthetics. The unpredictable plinking and clanking provides a sense of texture to what would otherwise be a series of pieces centered around brooding electronic repetition and ambient drone; the pieces themselves vary somewhat in the application of different sounds and strategies, but in the end they are all united in the tendency to gravitate toward hypnotic repetition and mysterious, sometimes even blissful, clouds of drone. This is eerie stuff, sometimes verging on downright haunting, like the sound of ghost trains rolling through endless empty tunnels at night while electronic machinery pulses in the darkness. Often resembling a mutant form of free-jazz electronica, there's a cold, zoned-out feel to the proceedings that's at odds with the obviously human element of random surprise expressed through the unorthodox instrument abuse, which is a large part of what makes the album so interesting. Swell ambient sounds and a minimalist approach to repetition through the use of unusual textures doesn't hurt, either. - RKF

(Kathodik) In occasione dello scorso “Rheuma”, il sottoscritto menzionò celermente l’alone concettuale, e se vogliamo anche colto, di guardia all’oblunga performance live registrata dagli SL. Ribadisco tuttora la maggiore logicità di “Concerning The Absence Of Floors”: una suite che non arriva mai alla fine, distribuita in cinque atti da Brian Day & soci nell’autunno ’07. Al posto delle radiografie abstract-noise, improvvisate senza pudore sistematico al pensiero dei TV Pow sotto abbagli freak, lo spettro sonoro di ora si aggira all’inizio con fare circospetto. Ovviamente, più il coltello sarà affondato nella piega di quest’incubo, più la forza voluminosa del rumore sarà invadente. A conti fatti e razionalmente, avremo una prima tranche con (che dico) educati incastri delle percussioni con oggetti e feedback appena accennati, contrapposta alla successiva dove artefici elettro-acustici si gonfiano, e nell’avido desiderio di esplodere, divengono materia organica ferrosa, impulsiva e caustica. L’oscuro richiamo del profondo subwoofer. - Sergio Eletto

(Touching Extremes) Shelf Life - in this instance Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Luke Polipnick, Alex Boardman, Jay Kreimer - produce homespun improvisations that reserve quite a few surprises in the long-distance quest for new methods of enlarging our consciousness by the use of abnormal sounds. Through various combinations of instrumentalists (four quartets and a trio), this collective excavates holes where the listener observes rare lights and a myriad of different solutions. The instruments - as it often happens in Day's project, not listed on the CD sleeve - are manipulated according to a gentle chemistry of barely touched percussion, scraped strings, controlled hum and frictional refractivity, bringing to mind the work of artists such as Adam Sonderberg, Jon Mueller and Jason Kahn, if only as vague references. Every once in a while the level of electricity is raised up to the threshold of bearable nervousness, dirty droning and acrid discharges at the basis of a jumble of frequencies and pulses whose poor man's magnificence equals the ragged pleasure that they elicit, a much welcome tension that pressures for being considered heavenly, without succeeding (the fourth track "Obsolescence · lflo" - sic - gets very near that result, though). Still, remaining with our feet in the soil of lo-fi pre-enlightenment is undeniably better that deluding ourselves of having "found the way". - Massimo Ricci

(Vital Weekly) Shelf Life is the group of improvisers around Bryan Day, the man behind Public Eyesore, but for their release 'Concerning The Absence Of Floors' they went to Friends And Relatives Records. Other members are Jospeh Jaros, Luke Polipnick, Alex Boardman and Jay Kreimer. There are no instruments listed and they play in various combinations. The recordings here were made in autumn 2007 and edited later on. I think (!) I hear guitars, electronics, metallic percussion, maybe a rusty synthesizers humming away. Shelf Life play pieces that are quite long around specific themes. You could almost hear them say: let's do a quite one. Let's do hectic one that lots of similar sounds. And so on. I rather like that approach I must say, because it brings a more homogenous character to the music. That's the good news. The bad news is that five of these long tracks is a bit too much. All around fifteen minutes is quite a strength to listen to. However when served in a smaller dose its quite nice. - Frans de Waard

(Aiding and Abetting) Brian Day and pals return with more noodling into the minds of the insane. The set-ups are abstract and the sounds are often almost incomprehensible. When I let my ears wander, though, I begin to tease out the barest hint of an outline. Does that have to do with the title of the album or the sketchy nature of my brain? Lemme listen again and I'll let you know. - Jon Worley

(Slug Magazine) This isn't really "music" by its traditional definition; there is no real form or even notes for that matter. What it does do is set a very particular disposition for the listener: one that may be unnerving or on the other hand, comforting. What I don't like is when the recording reveals itself as a recording, such as when you can hear something brush up against a microphone. It doesn't happen that often, but is somewhat distracting to the world it has created. Creaking would be the main palate of the sounds; almost as if two metallic objects are seductively caressing each other. While they stroke up and down, sounds creep in and out of their ears as if they are having a difficult time concentrating on anything but the task at hand. It could possibly be taking place in a Buddhist monastery or in the metallic wreckage at the end of the apocalypse: either way, it is holy. - Andrew Glassett