Coming out of Glasgow, composer Paul Russell’s project Human Pyramids is an interesting concept. Defying genre, the 16-piece collective’s second album, ‘Home’ fuses neo-classical and orchestral ambition with post-rock sensibility, making something that’s altogether unique.
Though strings and brass feature prominently throughout ‘Home’, there are guitar riffs straight out of the rock ‘n’ roll playbook on songs such as ‘Louise’ and ‘Crackle Pop’, and some electronic flourishes on ‘Big Data’ and >‘Canned Thunder’, both of which ensure the album sounds modern enough. Most of the songs also follow the gradual build-up structure of post-rock, but rather than using typically “rock” instruments, employ orchestral ones (despite the presence of guitar on some songs).
The combination of these different elements is an interesting concept and one that’s pulled off in many of the tracks throughout ‘Home’ – ‘Big Data’ in particular masterfully combines synthesizers with choral vocals. The piano playing is a highlight throughout, especially on tracks where it’s the lead instrument, for example, ‘Slush’ and the closing title track.
Despite its strengths, ‘Home’ has a tendency to drag and become repetitive at times, as Russell and co. repeat various motifs throughout the album. For example, the use of triumphant-sounding brass is fun on ‘Shaking Hands’, but becomes grating by the time we reach ‘Nico’ because of how prevalent this trope is.
Tracks such as ‘Heartbeats’ can also be very thin and forgettable, and the aforementioned ‘Slush’ drags a bit when not playing to the strengths of its initially piano-based nature. Human Pyramids do try and break this monotony with the understated, bare-bones glockenspiel track ‘Phase’, and the inclusion of acoustic guitar on ‘Your Flag’, but it’s still hard not to notice.
‘Home’, for all its inventiveness, never reaches the ambitious heights it so clearly strives for. Despite this, its a generally enjoyable listen and puts an interesting spin on modern post-rock and orchestral music, and is at the very least worthwhile for that reason.
‘Home’ by Human Pyramids is out now on Three Mile Town Records.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)