Shelf Life
Courtesy (Download / CD-R)
Psychic Oscillator 2010

1) morning parlance
2) afternoon parlance
3) evening parlance

Shelf Life: Bryan Day, Joseph Jaros


(Foxy Digitalis) Shelf Life is one of bizarre instrument builder Bryan Day’s many projects and collaborator Joseph Jaros joins him here for an hour of improv recorded last year in Lincoln, NE. I am not quite sure exactly what Jaros plays, as I occasionally hear a mistreated guitar or blurting, buzzing synth of some kind. There are also some subtle electronics and tapes being employed as well. They never seem to repeat though, so I am guessing that he is constantly changing whatever it is that he is doing. Day, of course, plays his enigmatic homemade arsenal of amplified tape measures and other improbable detritus…brilliantly. They make a good team, as Day and Jaros seem to completely share the same sparse and subtly warped aesthetic. There is absolutely zero clutter here- the two musicians display a deeply intuitive understanding of dynamics, wielding space to make the infrequent appearances of tapes and noises as effective as possible. The music throughout “Courtesy” essentially sounds like a virtuosic free jazz drummer giving a particularly restrained and meditative performance using a drum kit made entirely out of scrap metal and stuff he found at a bad tag sale. As Day clatters, scrapes, boings, rings, and clangs along, he is joined by a surreal and unpredictable splattering of echoing noises, creaking strings, disjointed voices, bleeps, rumbles, feedback, and other unmusical sounds. The three songs here vary a bit in length, but they all adhere pretty closely to the same very likable stylistic territory. As a pure listening experience, “Courtesy” admittedly has some limitations, as it can’t entirely transcend the fact that it is essentially a very long metallic percussion solo with no melody or repeating rhythms to hold onto a listener’s attention. However, it is also completely uncompromising, inventive, and wholly unique. This is very process-based music and it necessarily sacrifices much of its power without the visual component of Day wresting a staggering array of sometimes-massive sounds from a small and fragile-looking assemblage of odds and ends. “Courtesy” is certainly a very impressive recording, but witnessing the actual performance itself probably would have been absolutely mesmerizing. 8/10 - Anthony D'Amico

(Dead Angel) So here we are with another offering from this prolific but cryptic free-improv band, this time recorded as a duo of Joseph Jaros and Bryan Day. The opener, "morning parlance," is a barely-organized collection of freely improvised sounds -- erratic percussion that may or may not involve an actual drum kit, scratching sounds that may or may not have originated from a guitar, the occasional piano note, and other mysterious sounds of indeterminate origin. The preponderance of sounds doesn't quite rise to the level of being terminally busy, but it's hardly sedate, either; rather, they strike a nice balance between action and inaction. The percussion is a bit more prominent on "afternoon parlance," and there's less emphasis on random sounds; much of the action, in fact, revolves around a squiggly, wiggly guitar motif processed through an efx box in such a manner as to resemble the sound of a guitar vibrating itself to pieces. Changes in dynamics and unexpected bursts of chaos are evident on this piece as well. The final track, "evening parlance," is one where the percussion is the prominent element; it's minimal but busy, and there's plenty of loud, echo-laden clanking to go along with it, as well as intermittent squeals and shrieks from the guitar in the background. The album's overall sound is a curious mixture of restraint and sporadic energy, and a display of unfettered sound that leaves each player plenty of room to move. - RKF

(Vital Weekly) Casual rattle from this rather ductile collective centered around Public Eyesore head Bryan Day and experimental co-conspirator Jospeph Jaros. ‘Courtesy’ is broken into three tracks: “Morning Parlance,” “Afternoon Parlance,” and “Evening Parlance.” I don’t quite catch the meaning here, but Shelf Life’s manner of speaking is rather disheveled, full of clutter and clatter sourced from household percussive elements, stray metallic clangs, peripheral vocal blather, and some guitar shards positioned for good measure. One might not be inclined reach for “Courtesy” for a spur-of-the-moment casual listen – that isn’t its place. Instead, Shelf Life provide fifty-six minutes of crisply-recorded, acoustic free-improv; it’s a fun dose to rattle your soul, if nothing else. - Michael Tau

(Ampersand Etcetera) Shelf Life, reviewed at various times by ampersand, is a protean improv group with Bryan Day and Joseph Jaros as something of a core (on one of the discs here) but expanding to 4: Luke Polipnick and Anderson Reinkordt (on t'other): Bryan is the constant who has been providing the material to me. Both discs were recorded in Lincoln, Nebraska: presumably live, though at times the density suggests production. Instruments are not named but feature guitars and percussion, and from the photos on Ember's blog it is obvious that Bryan is constructing instruments (like Boe's laptops) of things to strike, pluck and tap. Courtesy is released by psychic oscillator - and there are three tracks: morning, afternoon and evening parlance. The first scrapes and clatters, an occasional plucked note and some feedback; a bit of drums, patters and squirls, becoming more dense before the end. The afternoon track has more space and is more spacey - with echoing processed guitar, voices in there, clattering and percussive, electronic swirls and tones: guitary guitar, throbs and a more gentle release. These two tracks are over 20 minutes each, while the final one is about 8 minutes. It skitters and clatters with woody percussion, quite a percussive track as it bangs and clatters, gongs and drums, cycling through before a gong announces the end. - Jeremy Keens