Boomkat Product Review:
Experimental poet, novelist, essayist and riot grrl progenitor Kathy Acker (1947 - 1997) captured here on an incredible 1987 recording made with influential French industrial collective Nox, originally issued as a tape edition of just 50 copies in 1989, restored and mixed for this edition by John Also Bennett in a deluxe package filled with ephemera from the period. Essential listening if yr into Throbbing Gristle, William S. Burroughs, Kathleen Hanna, Maurizio Bianchi, Arleen Schloss, Glenn Branca.
Kathy Acker cut her teeth in NYC's underground punk scene in the 1970s and '80s, using its general mood to inspire writing that characterised the era - free-flowing, transgressive poems and novels that often pastiched the form, mutilating biographical stories with postmodern references and explicit, pornographic detail. Her feminist/punk writing was an early influence on the Riot grrrl movement of the early 90’s, and in particular Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, some of whose earliest performances involved readings of, and with Acker.
On 'Love, Emily', Acker reads passages from her 1984 book 'My Death My Life, by Pier Paolo Pasolini' over incredible, controlled industrial grot by Nox, breathing fresh life into the words using ritualistic, thumping drum machine rhythms, guttural vocalisations and pulsing, industrial electronics. The cult French band was in its infancy at this stage, having released just one album, 1984's 'Acte I', on Michel Henritzi's AKT Production imprint, the same label who handled the original cassette of these recordings.
Acker's delivery is angular and suggestive; deliberately enunciated, spat and muttered over storm drain noise, eerie synths and guttural expressions edging in and out of the mix, allowing her voice to slurp up the focus. Looping psychedelic tape noise with hypnotic rhythms, Nox forge atmospheres rather than songs, using squealing feedback adjacent and parallel to No Wave/Glenn Branca via Throbbing Gristle, highlighting themes of racial intolerance, trauma, US imperialism, feminism and sexuality in a mode that still feels revolutionary and bristling 4 decades later.