Shelf Life
Protection (CD-R)
Counter-Submarine 2008

1) pink a
2) pink b

Shelf Life: Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Luke Polipnick, Anderson Reinkordt


(Ampersand Etcetera) Pink A and B which are divided into sections. You can hear subtle changes at the index points. This is an ambient noise work: when you turn it back on after a break you realise the volume and density. It is in a constant flux between chaos and control, noise and focussed sound. Tones and thrums appear throughout, clattering and percussion, bells and hissing, guitars plucked and scraped. In Pink A there is a hint of a suggestion of voices that comes and goes - is it the brain picking out voices from uncertainty? It is deep in the mix and appears fading up and down. With Pink B it is more obvious that the samples or radio playing are part of the work as they are much closer to the surface and more consistent (there is some Conet in there too). Both parts move nicely between the densest attack into periods of quieter delivery, becoming ambient at times (both quieter ambient but also the dense ringing shimmering tonality that approaches that state from the other end). - Jeremy Keens

(Vital Weekly) Shelf Life is a group of four persons improvising: Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Luke Polipnick and Anderson Reinkordt. Although no instruments are mentioned on the cover, I believe they have a rather regular rock band line up. Guitar, bass, drums and electronics. Their improvisations are slowly developing pieces, perhaps a bit too slow for what it is. More like a continuos stream of sound, which makes them more like a spacious rock band, playing long curves of music. Quite good stuff, but too long. Here the strong hand of would have been needed to shape things up a bit more. Exactly the sort of stuff people would expect on a CDR release however, the open playground for music. - Frans De Waard

(Dead Angel) This disc, recorded in Lincoln, NE in 2008 with a moderately different lineup (Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros, Luke Polipnick, and Anderson Reinkordt), manages to be even more obscure than the previously reviewed disc, no small feat. Given that the eleven tracks are grouped as two distinct movements, "Pink A" and "Pink B," it's entirely possible this was originally released (or intended to be released) on vinyl. Whatever its origins may be, the sound is similar to the previous disc, but not quite as random; there's lots of strange sounds being made, yes, but there's also a background drone present much of the time that keeps the extraneous sound tied together (or at least more so than on the previous recording). The main thing that changes from one track to the next is the quality and texture of the drone, which makes it much easier to perceive the variety of sound inherent to the different tracks. The improvised sounds may rise and fall through the clouds of drone, but they are generally subservient to the drone, adding texture and the element of surprise more than anything else. The second set of tracks is heavy at times on repetition as well as drone, especially making effective use at times of looped vocal samples. The sound on the second set of tracks, while not radically departing from what came before (especially in the use of supreme drone action), are a bit more psychedelic and vocal-heavy. It's mysterious stuff, no question, but soothing in its drone-happy ambience and eerie in its overall effect. It's also probably real hard to find. - RKF

(Foxy Digitalis) Successful noise or drone music tends to fall into one of two categories – either it is polished and uniform enough in sound for the origins of what one is listening to to be obliterated; or it adopts a ramshackle, organic, and often highly accidental approach, resulting in moments of unpredictable brilliance – moments that are brilliant precisely for their unpredictability. Shelf Life’s latest, “Protection”, sits somewhere in the gap between. As improvisation it significantly leans towards the later category, and yet somehow lacks the dynamics that make the best improv groups, such as No-Neck Blues Band or Sunburned Hand of Man, so compulsively listenable. Instead “Protection” seems somehow suppressed or smothered; drones reach into infinity, but never take precedence. On top of this is the low creaking sound of machines buckling under immense pressure, and endless, numbing oscillations of rhythm. Taken as the particularly long whole that this CDR is, it’s difficult to know whether Shelf Life are simply showing restraint or having difficultly getting off the ground. Still there is something refreshing about this kind of improvisation – particularly when a group resists the temptation to lock into the all-too-familiar groove of transcendental boredom. Listening to it with a good pair of headphones certainly helps (something which for me accidentally transpired on a walk to the supermarket, but I’m glad it happened). The disc is most interesting when listened to as a series of indexical traces of an improvisation. This quartet’s lack of dynamism abets such an approach to listening, where the delicate approach allows one to pick up every scrape of a bow on an ambiguous stringed instrument, and each subtle tonal variation of the underlying drone. The constant stream of sound produced even gives “Protection” a degree of momentum, providing a stable focal point amongst otherwise fluctuating pieces. “Protection” unfortunately falls down in its lack of surprise. A curious stasis pervades the disc; sounds are layered on top of each other so consistently that for all the slowly ascending & descending drones, variations in rhythm, and sudden bursts of guitar, listening to “Protection” remains an almost entirely formless experience. - Tim Gentles

(Aiding & Abetting) The latest collection of thought from Shelf Life, the project of Public Eyesore (etc.) honcho Bryan Day. This is a seriously paranoid album, allowing distortion and other electronic disturbances to function as the main source of melody. As usual, I'm impressed. Play this loud on Halloween and the kids will run screaming from your house. - Jon Worley