Tabs Out | Personal Archives – End of the Year Batch (2019)

Personal Archives – End of the Year Batch (2019)

1.31.20 by Ryan Masteller

Milking the Dubuque teat (among teats from other places), Bob Bucko Jr.’s Personal Archives label is the gold standard of experimental lunacy, the go-to Bandcamp site to peruse outsider wares or stream outsider tracks. Now that 2019 has come and gone, we turn to their turn-of-the-decade tape batch, released at the ass end of what turned out to be a pretty crummy year. (And yes, I do realize that I just wrote “teat” and “ass” in the intro to this thing. I’ve been wandering in the country among the cattle a bit too long now.) Let’s start 2020 with something less crummy! Like a new Personal Archives batch perhaps? Wait, I think I just said that.


There’s something inherently unsettling about the idea of hoarding. The obsession with obtaining more and more things and not getting rid of any of it when you run out of room, just letting it pile up around your house or apartment, is as creepy as it gets. You walk into a hoarder’s residence and are greeted by mounds of stuff, junk, sculch, reaching the ceiling, pouring out of cabinets and closets, or testing the limits of tables and shelves. I don’t suppose hoarders have guests over all too often. There’s gotta be a self-loathing element to it, yeah? And that’s where Average Life Expectancy comes in, the mutant metal/crust band boiling over with self-loathing and disgust. As bands of this type are never ones to hide their feelings on any particular subject, Average Life Expectancy alternates between seething sludge and seething bouts of thrash – but always seething. Mixed somewhat murkily (to nice effect), “Hoarder” still retains its pummeling vision, a vast hatred aimed outward in loud blasts of anger. By the time “The Hoarder” rounds out side B, you’re wondering what kind of people could have pissed off Average Life Expectancy so much. Before you answer yourself with, “Probably everyone,” take a look at that title and remind yourself about the hoarders. It’s always hoarders.


Nate Wagner’s letting his loops disintegrate again. Over two sides, one recorded in New York and the other in Vienna (hence the name), Wagner immerses us in a tactile environment, letting the sounds of his surroundings build up in his workstation and manipulating them until they trickle out speakers like escaping molecules. It’s impossible to determine origin even though we’re at least given the cities the tracks were recorded in. I for one don’t think New York sounds like the delicate glitching hisses or hissing glitches or whatever of “Brownstone Anticlimactica” – I think it sounds like traffic and construction. Same with Vienna – certainly the Austrian capital doesn’t sound like the delicately pinged and reversed objects of “Hell Bounce” – it probably sounds like traffic and construction. (Sadly, Vienna is one European city I haven’t been able to get to, so I can’t let you know for sure.) What I do know is that Leaaves is a very careful project, whether Wagner’s zinging us with synths or cut-up Terry Crews-es, and “Viennese Period,” like my own “Macaroni and Glue Period” (seriously, check it out at a MOMA near you), follows that ideal that Wagner’s set for himself.


What are these guys, messing with us or something? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love it, I love to be messed with, and I know you do too. But check this out. That cover is peanuts on a snare drum, and one of the Partly Zombish tracks is called “Nuts, a Snare Drum, and a Salad Spinner.” In fact, all of their tracks are just them doing things with objects, resulting in a particularly strange sort of found sound/noise experiment. There’s a little piano on “Justin: Irony Crisis? Joe: That’s How It Goes. That’s How We Roll” (great title), but it’s impossible to tell if it’s live or if it’s being played via some other medium (cassette maybe?). Stuff moves around; stuff gets dropped. What are they doing? Why are they doing it? We must imagine the results. Phoned Nil Trio adds some elements of amplified noise with their (grammatically dubious) contribution “Three Contemporary Lullaby’s in D. Lawrence Minor,” a single track on their side that moves from zany synthetic expulsions to barely audible noise and back, all within the span of thirteen minutes. It is what we have come to expect from the mad scientists, the Milwaukee experimenters. They once again have our attention.