Idwal Fisher on Max Nordile’s ‘Building a Better Void’ LP

Max Nordile – Building A Better Void
Gilgongo Records. GGGR-108. LP/DL

One of the upsides to living in the purple bit of the UK virus map is that there’s not much else to do except listen to music, read books and tell you about Max Nordile. I’ve never been much of a fan of the idiot box and looking for a back door boozer to sit and drink with the covidiots is about as likely to happen as Trump saying ‘I lost’. Watching films comes low on the priority list too, so after you’ve taken going to work and the weekend walk into account, books, music and telling you about Max Nordile it is.

To sit and read in silence though, to be able to read what someone else wrote and transform those marks on the page into thoughts and then to ponder those thoughts and put them into the memory bank for distillation and maybe inspiration or to give yourself a better understanding of yourself, your neighbours, the world in general. I still marvel as how as a species we’ve been able to achieve this and yet there’s still people who think the orange man child is a good idea and that he’s been robbed of the election. 

The only big distraction of late has been the US election. I mean, we take the coronavirus in our stride now don’t we? Hardly worth a mention. The unfolding of the US election I was able to follow in more detail than usual due to not being at work. Each morning I awoke to have it confirmed to me that 72 million American’s had put their faith in a person who despises democracy. Its something I’m still struggling with and its putting me off my tea and toast.

An LP from America then and as we all know by now, anything that arrives from America gets preferential treatment due to the sendee having to sell one of their kidneys, or rob a shop in order to afford the airmail costs. In this case over $23. A lovely thick slab of wax via Gilgongo Records out of Tempe, Arizona which after a bout of engine searching looks like one of those places where not much happens at all. If number two on your list of top ten things to do in Tempe [pronounced tem-pee] is a walk across a bridge that spans a man-made lake then you know you’re in quiet town. But then we are in the middle of a desert so perhaps a stretch of water has its charms. 

I like Gilgongo already and not just because their website has but one page and that it is an exact copy of the page that arrives with the Nordile record, a single sheet of A4 that looks like its been photocopied a thousand times and all the straight lines have started to wobble and the letters go up and down a bit, a distro list circa 1991. That and they have a Smegma/Winters in Osaka collaboration LP that I’m going to have to get hold of. You’re best finding them through Discogs where, if you can stomach the postage cost your hearts desires shall be met [Cold Spring carry some of their stuff in the UK too so alls not lost].

Max Nordile has graced us with his presence on numerous occasions now. We’re almost close friends, fist bump buddies, alternate poker nights round at his and mine with Albert Ayler blasting in the background, bowls of peanuts and brimming ashtrays, beer and crisps, sorry potato chips crunched into the carpet and 4am drives home. He’s the person in the middle of the Oakland experimental, improv scene judging by the amount of work he pumps out and the number of bands he’s involved with. Building A Better Void his his most coherent work I’ve heard though. Not a word I’d usually associate with Max who I’m guessing much prefers the chaotic route to creative nirvana. Although I have to qualify that by saying I’ve not heard that much within the greater scheme of things and that I’ve only been listening for the last couple of years. His solo stuff has veered towards freeform sax honk and general out-there weirdness while his work with Preening and Uzi Rash bear comparisons with Beefheart. This is more like early Nurse With Wound meets Jandek, six tracks of mumbled vocals, sliding strings, sax parps and noise, some of it recorded live with added chatter, some of the vocals going in reverse but always with that ‘vibe’, that force that you cant quite put your finger on. Its Max speaking in tongues, a mumbled witches curse as bridge strings get knocked about, shop doorbells going tinkle, one stringed melodies, a small ensemble of several Max’s where all the instruments have had their strings removed except one, where all the wind instruments have had all their holes blocked up except two, the vocals recorded while out walking or stood at the bus stop, a soupçon of swirly keyboard like a Swordishtrombone song thrown to hungry wolves with what’s left committed to wax. And this is just the first side. 

The longest track on side two, where but two of the six tracks reside is a metronomic bass heavy dirge of the highest stripe, a rolling tumble of detuned guitars, rubbed metal and Yol-ish tinks and clangs. This is The Residents far too the worse for drink trying to get it together on broken instruments using only their knees. Recordings made in a lunatic asylum 50 years ago by people who heard Zappa records played at the wrong speed, the recordings trapped in decaying reel to reel tape boxes and covered in bizarre pen marks that may or may not lead you to the true source of their inspiration. 

NB: This also sounds good played at the wrong speed.


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