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Matt Berry – Music for Insomniacs

 
02 July, 2014
 
 
 

Photo Credits: Latin Post (MX)

 

 

 

By Chris Burrage

 

 

For anybody unfamiliar with this artist's work, you need look no further than the shelves of your local digital entertainment outlet. You'll most likely see his mug on the face/reverse of comedy DVDs such as 'The IT Crowd', 'Garth Marenghi's Darkplace', 'Toast of London' and 'Snuff Box'.

 

What many people are unaware of, however, is that Berry is an avid songwriter and musician. His previous albums include the folk-rock infused 'Witchazel', psychedelic pop album 'Opium', and more recently a welcome return to his folk roots with 'Kill the Wolf', borrowing an approach errily similar to that of Magnet's original soundtrack for the 'Wicker Man' (1973).

 

'Music for Insomniacs', however, is another kettle of fish entirely, reminding us that Berry is as versatile in a musical spectrum as he is in his acting career. The album is reminiscent of and almost certainly a nod to the ambient-father's 'Music for Airports'. For those who are unaware of whom I'm referring to, I speak of Brian Eno, whose vast collection of ambient work has spanned decades.

 

Berry's album is delivered to us in two tracks, or sides, if you purchase the album on vinyl (Part I and Part II, respectively). This retro feel is prominent in Berry's previous work, and with it comes a nostalgic charm. For fans of electronic ambient music, one might find a striking resemblance to the timbres of Mike Oldfield and Jean Michel Jarre. The music is structured like a narrative, with a progressive, flowing motivic focus, featuring a wonderfully seductive use of dynamics.

 

Ambiguous, indistinct voices pepper the 45 minute album, which oozes with otherworldly space-era synths that dance about sporadic and ominously swelling crescendos. The music is so innocuous one can struggle to be put off by it. It is inviting, welcoming and trustworthy. Once the tone of the album is established, it feels safe to embrace the work without fear of being betrayed.

 

Recorded entirely at night, and in order to battle his own insomnia, Berry has forged something magnificent - a time capsule summoning sounds from eras yet to traverse our mortal sphere. Unpredictable and energetic, grand and even symphonic, 'Music for Insomniacs' is contemporary Holst on a leash.

 

And though there is light, there is also dark. And this is explored unreservedly. Haunting female wails appear after a swell that brings a chill to the skin. Melodies from his previous work are exploited, but tastefully, rarely a bore. In fact, it is engaging and entertaining to hear it presented differently.

 

What ultimately gives this album its vitality is the choice of instrumentation, and the courage with which it is employed. Berry holds nothing back, wielding a Hammond B3, a Korg Synth, a Mellotron (popularised by prog rock acts such as King Crimson in the late 60s), a Mini Moog synth, Vocoder, Piano and an eclectic use of percussion, authentic and electronic.

 

Berry has presented us with something so effortlessly inclusive that even when 32 minutes in, a man is heard seemingly plunging into water and, exasperated, blows bubbles, I'm still invested, if a little bewildered. Berry builds his pieces with intrigue, in a completely organic way. At no time do I feel tugged at or taunted. The tones and shades of the composition emerge languidly, and provide an expansive and noble exploration of Berry's imaginative, if a little self-reflective artistry.

 

 


 

 

QUICK ALBUM FACTS

 

Primary Genre: Ambient

 

Secondary Genre: Electronic

 

Release Date: 19th May 2014

 

Label: Acid Jazz

 

Like This And You'll Probably Also Like: Mike Oldfield, Brian Eno, Jean Michel Jarre, Rick Wakeman

 

Album Highlights: 'Part I', 'Part II'

 

 


 

 

 

Matt Berry - Medicine

 


 

 

 

Matt Berry - Fallen Angel

 


 

 

 

Matt Berry - Kill The Wolf (Making of)

 

 

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