peteg's blog

Ben Frost: Widening Gyre at the Carriageworks.

/noise/music | Link

Part of the Sydney Festival. Booked 2018-11-26, $49.00 + $4.95 = $53.95. I rode over to the Carriageworks quite a bit before the 9pm scheduled start time with the idea of taking a look at Chicago artist Nick Cave's installation. The foyer is like someone blew up a peacock. Instead I finished my book. The ushers insisted I cloak my backpack.

I did buy Frost's The Centre Cannot Hold and the teaser EP back in 2017 but didn't wear it out like I did A U R O R A, so I guess you could say my expectations for this gig were managed. In any case his interview with Nancy Groves in 2015 already gave the vibe that this was the album too far. Well, perhaps what's missing can be made up for in format — eight speaker stacks surrounding his central console (cf the Chicago gig in 2014), statically spotlit — and extreme volume.

It got started promptly, with maybe 400 people generally admitted: some sitting around on the floor, or on one of the very few chairs, or standing around wondering what to do with themselves. Frost turned up in bare feet with his beard and long hair intact; his tattooed producer (?) looked heavily pregnant. Soon enough we were assailed by offcuts of the Chicago sessions and the odd identifiable riff from that new album. I used the earplugs I brought for the first minute or two; after that, well, it felt slightly less abusive than getting passed by a truck on the bike. The walls of roiling bass and unidentifiable noise weren't so much distressing as perplexing; they got my shirt to move, like a summer breeze. There wasn't a lot to hang on to: the identifiable note-like sounds seemed to point back to the early 1980s synthesizer work of Vangelis and co, and not Frost's very intriguing samples (bells, wolves, so forth).

Throughout the crowd hardly moved. There was a lot more talking that I would have expected, and it became very obvious every time Frost gave us some respite from the assault; his music didn't so much shut people up as get them to depart. I was surprised — what did they expect? Less pleasant was some aggressive heckling up close. Welcome to Sydney in 2019: nothing has changed.

It was all over in seventy minutes. Heaps of geeks crowded in after to photo his rig. I think everyone was left wondering if that was it, if there'd be more, or even a main course. I have to say I felt cured. Maybe Patric Fallon was right: maybe Frost is furious about the grim state of the world. But there's no need to take that out on us.

Apparently Frost was in Adelaide in December, and his music was accompanied by some visuals.

Dan Davies: Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal The Workings Of Our World.

/noise/books | Link

'Settlement'. The process of checking the trade’s paperwork, updating the shareholders' registers and sending the payments from the buyer's bank account to the seller's. The sort of thing which people, even very experienced traders and investors, don't tend to think about. People outside the market would presume that this happens instantaneously and auto-magically over big sophisticated computers and tend to be surprised and appalled when they find out the extent to which it doesn't. Actually, things have got a lot better since 2008, but that only means that if you wanted to carry out this sort of fraud [Bayou Capital] today, you'd have to do it in emerging markets or in credit derivatives or some other market with less efficient settlement systems than the New York Stock Exchange. Things tend to improve in settlement systems one megafraud at a time.
— Maybe! But that's not how the ASX sells it.

Kindle. Who doesn't want to know how to get away with financial fraud? This is a book-length expansion of that Guardian article. Amongst many others we're told about the massive Bre-X mining fraud, which reminded me of an otherwise forgettable McConaughey movie. Davies often points to the lack of existence of incentive-compatible mechanisms in many markets; for instance, pharmaceuticals start to look like movies and BitTorrent to me (and I'll have the generics thanks, even so). Particularly valuable are his explanations of why fraud cases are so difficult to prosecute and what to look out for. He gets funnier as he goes along as he builds up a foundation for referential humour.

The whole thing is worth a read, if only to see how pervasive trust is and how little that's going to change whatever the technology.

The Little Drummer Girl

/noise/movies | Link

A recent BBC adaptation of a le Carré classic. Over several sittings and I wish it had been more. The cast is stellar. Florence Pugh was the draw after her mesmerizing efforts in the lead of Lady Macbeth. She leads here too, and there is no justice but no shame in her second billing to frosty Alexander Skarsgård (making a habit of le Carré) and icy Michael Shannon in perhaps his best role yet. Oldboy Park Chan-wook directs. It's a step back towards the mainstream from The Handmaiden (the last thing he did?) with little blood — none lurid anyway, no eating of live animals, some great arty shots and lots of juxtaposition. But yes, still a visual feast.

It's 1979 (I think) and master spy/concentration camp survivor/dry humorist Shannon is assembling a team to takes us deep into classic BBC TV territory: the days of fine John Cleese comedies and circuses righted by Alec Guinness, moral clarity and things worth fighting for. It's a Mossad operation of a sort, something that will progress the cause of peace in Israel, which Flo joins in a bout of credulity that is not really supported by her having the hots for Skarsgård (who coolly ignores the advances of her colleague). How does she know that the explosives in the vintage Merc she drives across Europe will be used for good and not awesome? The scenes at the Parthenon are gorgeous. Late in the game the training camp gets seriously Fight Club: an American reads the rules, and a Dennis Hopper clone goes off the rails. At some points I thought she wouldn't survive; she keeps getting told she doesn’t have to take things further, but she does anyway.

The plot is not holeproof, and is perhaps exactly the one pilloried in Team America. The climax is a bit difficult to square with the motivations of the puppet masters. A very few filming locations are used to evoke so much of the Cold War world.

Stephanie Bunbury. I have no idea why it's so poorly rated at IMDB.