23 for PB, a musical tribute to Paul Bower, is a fittingly eclectic compilation for a man who spent his life embroiled in multiple forms of music. It’s an album awash with dichotomous offerings, reflecting Paul’s pragmatic and mystical sides. A wide seam of electronica runs through it, as is perfectly proper for Paul, a true champion of the Sheffield music scene.
This is so much more than a memorial album. It’s a cornucopia of vastly varied offerings from Sheffield born or based musicians. It will no doubt appeal to many types and many tribes, from the lovers of a wafty melody, to the psychonauts, to the smooth operators, the weirdos, the ones who like to get jiggy, and most definitely to anyone who goes a bit moist over filthy, dirty, bass noises.
Paul was a musician, manager, promoter and producer, a music-based polymath and friend of many a muso. He was my erstwhile, Rutland-based, drinking buddy and had more than his fair share of stories to tell. I’ve reviewed these tracks in the spirit of our chats, which were often obtuse and always entertaining. I’ve no idea if he was truly a Discordian, but he connected with the 23 enigma, so much so that his friends and colleagues have created an album of 23 tracks, all 2mins and 30secs in length, in his memory.
And they are:
1 PSYCHOACOUSTIC SOUNDCLASH Hello, Greetings & Welcome Grounding, gorgeously bassey, melodic and quite marvellous. Sway to those sinuous sounds.
2 ÅYUSP, The Shifting of Tectonic Plates: A dark and driving, acid-fuelled journey through the sounds of geology, rising up and wafting off at the finish. Heartening.
3 P@YL , Machine Assimilator: Agitated 4×4 electronica. More blops, bleeps and bibbles than a machine could shake a stick at, let alone assimilate.
4 FIERCE WHIRLPOOL, CrossPhaseAway: Umpah meets 60’s electronica-heavy TV theme tune, with musical stylings from multiple eras.
5 ANDY VONAL, PanegyricXXIII: Deep demonic breathing with airy, angelic overtones. Dichotomous.
6 THROBBIN HOOD, Hillz Muzik: “Sound of music” inspired, Sheffield-referencing silliness. “So long, farewell” in an electro stylee. Really quite touching.
7 BINDI SLIPPAGE, Sky Born: Pleasing piano refrain meets delicious danciness. Also synths. Wafty yet substantial.
8 THE BLACK DOG, Virus B23 (edit): Has the pace of a long-distance race with some deeply serious bass.
9 AALTRA, The List (7- mix): Dangles a darkly disturbing narrative in front of your ears. The words “mole grips” will never sound this sexy again.
10 ORIEL DAX, A Bright Day in Yoyogi Park: A brisk and beautiful track with heavenly chord combos and a distinctly Japanese feel, named after a stunning Tokyo park.
11 BUFF PRIMER , It’s Science, Baby (PB edit): Synthtastic future-past electro. And that yummy whrrrram noise. Check it.
12 ADI NEWTON, Emergence (Abridged 21 Gram version): Heavy, flowing, pensive meditation on the weight of the soul.
13 YONNI, Love St (Inst): Wistfully somber, lightly layered, utterly lovely. Ethereal vocals and a particularly perfect ending.
14 CORESECT, Without Fear: Mildly disturbing, wafty, and whoosing, featuring a distorted Jim Carrey talking about his “number 23” obsession. See also Psalm 23.
15 HARLEYLIKESMUSIC, Light Shines Brighter In The Dark (23 edit): Aptly named and really quite lovely. An upbeat ditty with a smattering of dischord.
16 SIMON STAFFORD, Taisho Goto (pacific mix): Grungy Japanese harpist prepares for a fight with a Godzilla made of sound. Possibly.
17 GOZZO, The Hopping Song: Uplifting and really quite jolly. Will indeed make you wanna dance. Groovy baby.
18 VICE VERSA, Trapped In Celluloid 2020: Dead pacey this. Quite possibly the kind of thing that Sheffield bands from the 80’s would listen to on their way to a tower block disco.
19 SIEBEN, Here Is The News (Paul Bower mix): Serious strings. Statement lyrics. Received pronunciation with a sharp Sheffield edge.
20 DEAN HONER, Invert The Pyramid: Deeply contradictory. The musical equivalent of a disco fairy fleeing from a dark synth overload.
21 STEVE EDWARDS, Thick Like Molasses: Smooth, sexy, sensuous, probably quite sticky.
22 PROFESSOR CHILL, Bass Tetractys: Bum-chish, cosmic, electroacoustic, pachyderm stomp. Very heavy and probably not safe to carry.
23 THE FUCK POPES, Towers Of Flame: A dungy, frentic, disturbing soundscape, under an account of the 1963 self-immolation of a Vietnamese monk. I’m hoping I get a bonus point for knowing it’s from de Antonio’s documentary “In the year of the pig”. Probably not though.
Review by H J Nicol