Petit Mal is the project name for the ongoing sound excursions of James Kaiser of Berkeley, CA. Intended to produce the bastard child of noise and melody, petit mal has proven successful in varying degrees at both ends of the spectrum, though mostly somewhere in between. Birthed from the ashes of such groups as Bufo Alvarius, Grand Mal and Velvet Smith (Kansas City), and later Jihad (New Orleans), the early 90's recordings of petit mal were mostly based on manipulated field recordings and heavily tweaked tape samples. With time, acoustic instruments snaked into the mix with the result being the petit mal half of the debut Zenflesh release with TKP. The sometimes Zenflesh slogan "the use of machines for purposes not intended" is a suitable description of the petit mal recording process, with "happy accidents" often becoming an integral part of the composition.
While petit mal's recorded works typically involve the layering and cross-fading of several misused and abused sources with a dose of production fuckery, the live petit mal performance usually builds from a single sound input, slowly effected, looped and added to until a satisfactory density is achieved. At that time, the piece may either end abruptly or disintegrate into silence. The normal petit mal set features bass, reel-to-reel, contact microphone and the ever present bowed bicycle wheel, which is the most recognizable component of the petit mal live and studio sound. The handful of live performances has been garnished with shows playing alongside TKP and SS21 as the Zenflesh Collective, as well as with Lefthandeddecision and J. deWinter, among others.
Currently, Kaiser is also recording and performing live as 1/3 of French Radio, a group improvisation/concrete unit along with Andrew Way (anti-turntables, efx, etc) and Bruce Anderson of MX-80 notoriety (guitars, efx, etc). The initial live French Radio performance was described as: "two turntables, a guitar, lots of effects, a bicycle wheel and a reel-to-reel deck conspiring to make something dirty, hypnotic, like the aftermath of a homicide spied through smudged and smashed windows." - S. Kalem, East Bay Express, 25-31 Dec. 2002. The release of the first French Radio disc, "Elements" is pending, and work on the second offering is in the latter stages.
As for petit mal, a smattering of pieces have found their way onto compilations and the odd one-off since the release of "a sense of closure" in early 2002. A collection of these wandering children is under consideration, as is the reworking of several unfinished recordings from the past couple years. Older bits released in limited cassette editions are also under scrutiny for upgrading and eventual reissue. As long as Kaiser remains a malcontent with a supply of Jameson and Stolichnya, petit mal will continue, as well as the proliferation of Le Morte de la Mer, the revolving member effort he has been a part of with TKP since its inception a decade ago.
Contact petit mal through for more sordid details. -- jkaiser/pmal aug '03