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Small Evils, Musical Bicycle Wheels, and a Child Prodigy 

Wednesday, Apr 9 2014

East Bay experimental artist Jim Kaiser once operated as Petit Mal, but the moniker eventually shifted to signify his record label. A French term for a brief seizure, "petit mal" basically translates to "small evil," which befits the imprint's primary format: 3-inch CDs. As Kaiser tells it, Petit Mal's evolution from his personal label to an outlet for the work of others was out of his hands. If it was a printing mistake that he chose to roll with, that would fit, since sculpting the conditions for error could describe much of Kaiser's sonic output. His techniques include tape cut-ups, field recordings, manipulating radio interference, and other rigorous investigations of sound's occurrence and decay. If Kaiser has a signature motif, though, it's the bicycle wheel, an object from which he's extracted evocative and disquieting drones for the last 17 years. Kaiser performs with the Kamoto Trio and Christina Stanley on Thursday, April 10, at Duende.

"6.4 = Make Out" is a highlight from cult bandleader Gary Wilson's 1977 album, You Think You Really Know Me. A slack groove and twinkling keys dwindle to eerily sparse passages as Wilson croaks, whispers, and sputters a vague tale of romantic misadventure. The cryptic dream logic of the song title speaks to Wilson's idiosyncrasies and bizarre career trajectory. A prodigious child musician coached by John Cage in his teens, Wilson nevertheless retired for decades after his self-released 1977 album. A groundswell of support from the likes of Beck and Peanut Butter Wolf eventually garnered a revival, and Wilson began touring and recording music again in the early 2000s. Footage from a release event for his album Feel the Beat at Public Works in 2011 depicts Wilson with a garbage bag duct-taped around his head while he shimmies across stage with a sex doll. Wilson plays at the opening party for "Him & Then," an exhibit of found photography at Vacation, on Friday, April 11.

Local hardcore acts Replica, Ritual Control, and Scalped opening for Los Angeles quartet Stoic Violence at Bender's Bar on Saturday, April 12, should make for one of the more menacing-sounding bills of recent memory. Hostility is a common hardcore pose, and it seeps into most descriptive language of the style. Scalped sounds tough and surly, Ritual Control certainly sounds brutal, Replica's live ferocity is storied, and Stoic Violence's newest record is absolutely devastating. If that's not appealing, then the illustration of frightened faces behind big black boots on the cover of Stoic Violence's latest will look ghastly, and that's sort of the point. Since hardcore's conventional wisdom is that alienated and maladjusted people play it best, the style's violent exterior seems to deter healthier outside forces as a protective measure. The genre's impressive longevity as California's petri dish of youthful deviance might owe something to its first nemesis: Ronald Reagan. After all, Reagan's political legacy includes the disastrous defunding of mental health institutions.

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Sam Lefebvre


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