Saturday, October 30, 2010

2 by shelf life

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 psychedelic 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.

There are two tracks on Protection (released by the counter submarine: 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).

Ok, both albums are undescribable in their details, but are intense working within the structure of the two group forms. I like the more open space of Courtesy, but then the dense attack of Protection is exciting. And then, to confirm my listening, i played them again today and it was the other way round and the electronics of Protection grabbed me!

Probably both are too intense to necessarily sit and listen all though, but they are well worth listening to, or as a busy ambience. I have formed the construction not(un)es to characterise them, for what it's worth!

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