Following the release of ‘Planet Shhh!’, Paul Russell’s Human Pyramids project put a smile on the faces of crowds at festivals ranging from ArcTanGent to Glastonbury and now the Axes man has come up with another 12 pieces of gloriously orchestral pop for you to wrap your ears around. Coming out on Three Mile Town Records, ‘Home’ is a record you’ll quickly come to cherish.
Although officially a solo project, you can feel the spirit of collaboration and diversity running throughout every song and the opener ‘Louise’ perfectly captures what you can expect from the following 50 minutes or so. It opens with a crescendo of noise but this is followed by spiky drums and catchy guitar hooks that have the feeling of Paul’s other band if they were high on E numbers. It’s a broader and poppier sound than Human Pyramids have shown before and it can’t fail to make you feel happy. This is followed by ‘Shaking Hands’, a song that opens in altogether gentler fashion with a swaying, marching feel and some Scandinavian-style pixie dust courtesy of strings that reminded us of Team Me and Mimas. The five-minute-plus ‘Slush’ is altogether more restrained with subtle strings and a cinematic yet hugely emotional feel, especially when it reaches its grand climax.
The glockenspiel-led opening of the aptly named ‘Heartbeats’ has the feeling of latter-day Los Campesinos! and its fractured strings eventually lead into a victorious and triumphant finish, which recent single ‘Crackle Pop’ perfectly follows with its math-influenced spin. The percussive nature of ‘Phase’ veers the album into yet more new territory and, of course, the 16-strong ensemble ace it. This track is only two and a half minutes long so almost feels like an interval. ‘Your Flag’ opens with a sole acoustic guitar but this is soon joined by understated strings and as the song evolves and grows, you begin to feel that Paul has an infectious childlike enthusiasm for music that wouldn’t be out of place on a Pixar film score.
The brass section adds extra depth to the songs, especially when they have a pay-off as romantically optimistic as on the slow-burning ‘Blast Off’ (surely that deserves an exclamation mark?). As the album reaches its final two songs, you’ll still be punching the air with glee but have the bittersweet feeling that it’s all coming to an end soon. ‘Big Data’ stacks up choral arrangements and orchestral manoeuvres against crunching riffs in an alluring combination of the best elements of Human Pyramids and Axes, while the closing title track is more introspective and has the same emotional leanings as ‘Stop Your Crying’-era Spiritualized. It gradually breaks down to a solo piano that provides a thoughtful finish to an exciting record that is full of life, vibrancy and energy. It’s one that can’t fail to lift your mood.