Category Archives: Vision Fortune

Ox Hunting

Featuring : Vision Fortune

Vision-Fortune

The press release for the Vision FortuneMas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune’ (MFCEGVF) could be the best that 20JFG has ever received – it describes its songs by reference to the Parable of the Ox written by John Kay of the Kay Review of Equity markets and long-term decision making fame. In fact, MFCEGVF is loosely based in this paradox, ‘itself a thinly veiled allegory for unbridled capitalism’ (in the press release’s own words).

As awesome as all of this is, we don’t totally agree with this interpretation of the parable, or more accurately, we sort of agree with the interpretation of the parable but we also think that there is scope for greater precision in the description of the subject of the parable, in a way which will help us convey the sensations that Vision Fortune, MFCEGVF and their live show provoke in us.

Let’s get started.

So, the Parable of the Ox tells of a country fair where they stop weighting the ox to be auctioned, and instead decide to measure its weight using averages of the buyers’ guesses, which, according to the idea of the ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’, will be quite close to the real weight.

These guessers start to second guess each other, and a whole infrastructure is created to regulate this process. Computerised models are developed to estimate the weight of the ox when there aren’t enough buyers guessing (since the idea of the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ only works when there are actual crowds).

In the midst of all this frenzy of guessing, everyone forgets to feed the ox, and the ox dies.

This is indeed, a thinly veiled allegory for unbridled capitalism of the ‘Anglo Saxon’ (or ‘financial’) sort. But more specifically, it is a commentary on different ways of measuring and – perhaps – predicting the prices of shares (i.e. the weight) of companies (i.e. oxes) in the stock exchange (the country fair).

The parable contrasts those who look at the ‘fundamentals’ (financials, investments and economic activities) of a company to gauge its future potential with those who look at the evolution of share prices using mathematical models of their historical performance, or that of similar share prices. This second group doesn’t really measure the weight of the ox, but looks at what everyone is guessing about the weight of the ox (or a cow) in order to evaluate what is its probable weight.

When the second group becomes dominant, the financial economy detaches itself from ‘the real economy’, and  we move from investment to trading… and speculation. We move to a world where it doesn’t really matter what a company does – e.g. whether it has a bunch of incredible products in the pipeline (if it is a fat ox). What is important is how has its share price (the guesses on how fat it is) performed recently, and what it means for its future evolution.

Here is where the complexity scientist and the behaviouralist raise their bony fingers. The idea that, somehow, the financial analyst looks at the data from “nowhere” (an ‘objective’ and ‘rational’ position) and can identify patterns that allow her to beat the market have some big problems. For starters, the analyst is not alone. There is an army of would-be rocket scientists and wizards out there with her, and their actions impact on the movement of prices. Moreover, no-one in this army is rational. Everyone is afflicted by cognitive biases that shape the signals it gleams from the data, and how it makes decisions – status quo and confirmation biases, and an inability to conceive situations where things that have never happened may indeed happen – like, say, a crash in the housing market.

The biased guesses of thousands of analysts don’t average each other out, but interact like an equilibrium-less game, generating instabilities and weird cascades and bubbles. They pollute the purity of prices as a signal of what is and will happen. This may justify paternalistic interventions to protect these people (and innocent bystanders) from themselves.

Someone is needed, to keep the ox alive.

Which is where Vision Fortune come into the picture.

To be clear, Vision Fortune aren’t here to save the ox. If anything, their music pounds with the murderous thrust with which the quasi-ox (bull) is slaughtered at the end of Apocalypse Now. It is this murderousness plus a mystical something else that helps us make the connection between VF and the paternalistic solution to the cognitive biases which can send the marketplace in a bizarre economy-busting spiral, as outlined before.

Why?

Because Vision Fortune’s music harnesses with an ability not born of practice or premeditation a set of behaviours and body rhythms hardwired into our nervous system and simian-derived psyche – i.e. those biases that set us apart from the rational agent of economic modelling, and link us to our hunter-gatherer totem worshipping ancestry. Theirs is the beat with which the old tribes scared their prey out of gnarly woods, and the beat with which these tribes beat on their wooden shields before heading into battle with their neighbours, theirs is the light of a storm experienced in a barren peak, illuminating what could well be the face of the God in the clouds, frowning like the knots in the bark of a tree, before she speaks with the voice of thunder.

Every time Vision Fortune do their unleashing they create a demonstration pure like mathematical proof but written with sledgehammers, of the plethora of brutal heuristcs and biases that survive in mankind and its markets, manifested in bulls and bears from which we may need defending.

Their demonstration does however also illustrate the problem with that ‘paternalism’ that seeks to protect us from ourselves with its superior knowledge– because attending a celebration by Vision Fortune, entering the force field of their industrial stroboscope, getting tangled in their distorted quagmire, and celestially battered in their merciless roguelike, is something that is not going to make us live any longer, or make us better adjusted citizens, or more respectful of our elders (at least not the immediate lowercase ones, the uppercase millennial ones are a different affair altogether).

It is not good for us in any conventional, societally agreed way, but we’d like to see you, benevolent dictator, stand in the way between us and it to protect our very own health. Watch out, we say, because in this village we don’t let the oxes starve, we carve them.

Vision Fortune – XX

You can pre-order Vision Fortune’s ‘Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune’ from Faux Discs here.

From the South of England, and into the Void

Featuring : Royal Limp + Vision Fortune

Imagine a 3D model of someone’s bedroom containing every single object within it, and every single bit of information concerning that object. Where it is positioned, how it arrived there, what was done with it, what was felt about it. Imagine it as a digital version of Georges Perec in Life: A User’s Manual.

Photographs, t-shirts and books, disintegrating sneakers and second hand furniture, posters and fanzines, chunky red toys, piles of papers, train ticket & gig stubs, discarded packets of cigarettes, coffee mugs embossed with novelty slogans. The cause of that smear in the sofa and the distant psychic echo of whoever stayed in that bed. Everything captured in its splendid, damaged, lived-in imperfection.

And records. Every sound within every record and its emotional significance, the identity of those it was listened with. Every single scratch in its black (or coloured) surface and why it happened, scars from skirmishes in far-away battlefields.

The capacity of the database populating this model rivals those used to describe whole swathes of the galaxy. Data mining algorithms can recognise patterns in its chaos and disentangle a trajectory from the detours. But still, there is an absence. A music generator of a sophistication as yet unreached could perhaps compress all this embodied experience and define the contours of that piece which is missing from the heart of this existential puzzle. The day to day of a rumbling drone, romance as fractured melody, the highs and lows of a personal epic that can’t be wholly put into words, and which that way is shared with/by others.

We don’t have that generator, but we have songs. We have the Velvet Underground and Young Marble Giants, The Beat Happening and Arthur Russell’s World of Echo. We’d place Royal Limp, in a non-hyperbolical way, in that same zone of low-frequency, subtle and honest beauty.

Royal Limp – New Ennui

Royal Limp is Andy Auld of Sex is Disgusting. He will be releasing a cassette, and playing some shows in the near future. We’ll keep you posted about it.

(And here’s Andy Auld himself with a great review of Vision Fortune)

Vision Fortune opened a show I put on for Maria Minerva in Brighton last year.

I booked them based on the Eastern promise contained in a cryptic email, sounds beamed straight from Sun City, and reports of a transcendental live show drenched in feedback. It is the feedback that gives the first indication that Vision Fortune’s set has began, the main room of the venue being obscured by a black velvet curtain draped across the entrance; perhaps to intrigue the casual drinker in the main bar, perhaps to alienate. What We Do Is Secret.

The next indication is far more intrusive, as bright white light beams through the gap in the curtain and cuts sharp lines across the floor of The Green Door Store. I abandon my post on the door, walking into a room besieged by harsh strobe light and a wall of sound. Bewildered audience members struggle to adjust to the light as prolonged drone gives way to swelling psychedelia. Vision Fortune could comfortably sit alongside psychedelic contemporaries such as Leeds’ Hookworms but their hypnotic stomp comes from elsewhere; evoking influences as disparate as tambura-led drone and Eyeless In Gaza, less Spacemen 3 and more Blues Control.

Their set works as one continual composition, songs such as ‘Black Coral’ and ‘Void Of The Valley’ weaved in between menacing drone and feedback. Some audience members falter, driven to respite from the persistent abrasive strobe, others remain, drawn closer, reaping the rewards that a hardened resolve can provide.

Their recent single on Mannequin record distills their live show into a two-track psych burner; ‘Void Of The Valley’ is a personal highlight, drenched in saxophone and held-together by spiritual incantations, taking Vision Fortune ever further from Southern England and into the void.

Vision Fortune – Void of the Valley

Pick up the record from Mannequin now.

Legends

Video-Game-Shadow-of-the-Colossus-37265

You walk past the gates, and through the powerful spell that conceals a battlefield for Gods, modelled on Halo’s Valhalla multiplayer level. Old Gods never quit – they just come to places like this and offer themselves as sacrificial colossi for today’s up and coming deities.

We can’t be bothered to describe the physical reality of a situation where lumbering skyscrapers kick the shit out of each other above and around you. You have probably seen many films where that happens. You are totally out of your depth.

But what about the psychedelic reality? Being there when a whole body of belief, a way of seeing the world embodied in a fire-eyed bear, a raging bull, a feathered serpent or a stout juggernaut walks out of the tall pines and the ragged mist below with the weapons of its people?

What does it feel like when the old god shouts a challenge and charges up the valley to test the mettle of the Young Gods, surely die, abandon the dreams of humans and vanish into their history?

Plate tectonics as drama instead of geology, pillars of light jumping from Earth into the Sky, the dance of vast shapes caught somewhere in between this world and many others. A discontinuity in the fabric of things as new myths take shape and souls migrate across the frontiers of new empires thus formed. But also continuity, as human tribes endow new symbols with old powers, build up castles that have minds and cower in their shadows.

There’s no escaping from it, we need the magic.

Vision Fortune – XX

Swans – Lunacy

Fuck Buttons – Sentients

Teeth of the Sea – Reaper

You somehow survive the mutilation of the soul-scape and the obliteration of an old time relijun, and make it through the valley, and to a mountain.

There is a cave on the side of this mountain, inside it a hatch of metal. Open it and go inside.

There is a path into the woods. Follow it.

2013 References

Image from Shadow of the Colossus obviously.
 
2013 was a good year for epic.
 
Swans did of course release The Seer in 2012, but it was in 2012 when they came to Brighton with the sonic equivalent of the sacrifice of the bull at the end of Apocalypse Now, taking 20JFG’s hearing hostage for a week – you don’t want to know what we did to get it back. Vision Fortune’s “Más Fiestas con el Grupo Visión Fortune’ confirmed that the primeval sturm und drang that their live show can be somehow translated into physical artefacts in addition to infecting the memories of those who attend them (also check Night Jukes).
Fuck Buttons’ live show made us think of Chemical Brothers in a good way, while Teeth of the Sea…well, Teeth of the Sea Sea are like Barry de Vorzon if all those gangs in Warriors had been Wizards. Do yourself a favour, and get Master.