Matt Berry - Music for Insomniacs (4 stars)

Matt Berry - Music for Insomniacs

Latest sinister installment in ongoing musical career of artist best-known for TV work

(Acid Jazz)

A title like that can be read in two ways. The cruel (yet wrong) might suggest this record will simply put you to sleep while the more positive (and correct) should conclude that the two parts which make up Music for Insomniacs’ 45 minutes are, in the main, a sonic relaxant which will soothe your whirring mind. But if you are familiar with Matt Berry’s TV work, you’ll know that darker materials often stir just beneath the surface: Snuff Box, anyone?

Not satisfied with being one of the country’s foremost small screen comic actors (see Toast of London, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The IT Crowd for further details), the hairy Berry has carved himself a very pretty musical career in that well-worn ambient-pop-proggy-folk (with hints of rock opera) niche. Opium and Kill the Wolf are excellent places for the Berry virgin to start, but those were heavily collaborative works: this is a purely solo project, with our sleep-deprived hero playing every note and adding every sinister sound effect.

Kicking off with lulling female hums and a Tubular Bells-like Moog loop, it’s not long before the possible contents of his waking nightmares become apparent. There are the sounds of toddlers in peril (or is that a kitten in distress?) while an almighty splash could be the result of some jolly swimming pool japes or might more likely be a bound and gagged 15th-century heretic being chucked in a lake. And that distant maniacal laughing can’t augur well for someone.

Each gentle movement of ambient contemplation is interrupted by the creeping terror of, well, who knows what? Berry is adamant that the listener should map out a story in their own heads. However that tale is concocted, the ending surely can’t be a happy one. Not that the album doesn’t include some jauntier moments. There’s a couple of vocoder-style treatments which hark at an amalgam of his more hook-laden tunes on Opium, but it’s an unsettling feeling that will linger. Nighty night.

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