Alan Bishop’s DJ set titled “Sublime Frequencies” is a mesh of different music genres, pitting retro 60s and 70s music with rock, folk, Yé-yé, surf and traditional harmonies from North Africa as well as South and Southeast Asia. With Bishop’s quintessential groovy style and low-key personality, the concert was a subtle balance of invigorating and relaxing songs.
“Lovers Gonna Find a Place” was a mellow, intimate kind of song that alluded to themes of loneliness and comfort. The lyrics were profoundly emotional. For example, consider the following lyrics, sung in surprisingly low and soft voices: “What am I gonna do tonight?” and the refrain “everyone needs someone”. By direct comparison, “Sun City Girls & Ruins” assaulted my sensibilities. I did not like the eerie blend of electrical guitar with flutes and pre-recorded radio excerpts because the music sounded harsh, aggressive and all over the place. Of course, that may have been Bishop’s intention. If so, it worked, but the experience was hardly pleasurable. The cacophony of sounds exploded half-way through the piece when the instruments were turned on full volume and a xylophone was beat repetitiously and relentlessly against the screech of violins. To be honest, I just wanted the music to stop at this point in time, and looked forward to piece that might resemble the soft guitar strings played in “Lovers Gonna Find a Place.”
“Gently Johnny” brought me back to my comfort zone. Bishop’s voice almost lulled me to sleep, especially with the purr of background music. That being said, the lyrics were rather startling, given the fact that the music was so distinctly mellow and soft in nature. For example, let us take into consideration the following highly sexualized lyrics: “Gently Johnny/my gigolo” and “I put my hand on her thigh/and she said/would you like to try?/ I put my hand on her belly/and she said would you like to fill me?” Bishop stopped at some point to stop singing and to begin speaking in ominous tones as his co-performers began whistling and striking their instruments forcefully. In comparison to “Lovers Gonna Find a Place”, this song alluded to the darker aspects of sexuality and of sexual conduct. As such, I felt rather depressed at the end of this song, as it seemed to focus on the unstable, lonely and frankly perverse life of a gigolo, a term that has since lost most of its meaning in the 21st century but that had strong cultural undertones in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Smoking Elevator” once again pitted traditional instruments like violins against original sounds (buzzing, whirring, etc.) produced by digital recorders. It took a while for me to latch onto this particular song as it seemed to stretch on forever. I could tell that the audience was getting restless at this point as well; people were shifting in their seats and I noticed that a lady sitting to my right glanced at her watch and sighed openly. Alan Bishop’s music is hardly for the masses; it asks us to lend critical attention and to sit for long periods of time listening to sounds of banging, striking, stirring, etc. Although it is highly original and relatively unique, Bishop’s music can easily become repetitive and therefore a bit boring.
“Howling Sheep” had more of a rock vibe to it, which I liked because I have a particular affinity for rock music. It sounded like Bishop and his co-performers were combining the sounds of an alarm clock with the screams of a chainsaw. Although eerie and exciting at first, the interest I had in the song quickly faded when the violin began its slow, rather annoying and relentless mantra. In short, the concert was quite an eye-opener for me, having never been to an Alan Bishop concert before. That being said, it was hardly the most pleasurable of experiences given its excessive take on grating sounds.