Human Pyramids ~ Power Pose

Power Pose is an ebullient album, set for release on Christmas morning, just as children are opening their presents.  Although it’s not a Christmas-themed set, it fits the occasion and will make a perfect alternative for those tired of hearing the same old songs.  The music pops with bright timbres: accordion, chimes, video game synths, a full brass section, 14 performers in all, arranged by Scotland’s Paul Russell.  Listening is like eating cake, unwrapping toys, and dancing around a decorated tree with children and dogs.  The album is as colorful as a peacock and just as pretty.  2019 has been a hard year, but those who want to end on a note of joy will find this a fitting choice.

But there’s also balance, as represented by the clarinet and string quartet.  An unexpected breakdown in the middle of “Boxing Day” lends the track a hint of Renaissance courts, before it is wiped away by Atari beeps and hyperactive drums.  A hammered dulcimer appears in “Treacle,” though none is listed; as for those Christmas chimes, check the beginning and end of “Confetti.”

Human Pyramids first appeared on our radar in 2013 with their debut album Planet Shhh!, which actually ended up in our Top Ten of that year.  The follow-up, Home, snuck out at the end of 2017, but we missed it, which makes this a good time to say, “Get that one too!”  That is, if you want to be happy for 38 minutes (42 if you order the Japanese version) and can take a bit of excessive gleefulness.  This is the sort of instrumental music that makes a person want to sing along (as the background singers do, wordlessly, in “Memory Map,” which ends with the timbre of rubbed balloons).  The light la-la-las of “Wisdom Teeth” sound like Christmas carolers after they’ve had their hot chocolate; then the track turns percussive, with “oohs.”

The composer obviously enjoys what he’s doing, and his mood is contagious.  Each piece is a sugared confection dusted with snow.  Any of the songs could be singles, fit for radio play.  The bells of “4000 Miles” and “Trouble” sound like Christmas Day, the brass the coronation of a king.  Perhaps this is a Christmas album after all.  (Richard Allen)

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