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Matt Berry - Music For Insomniacs

"Music For Insomniacs"

Release date: 19 May 2014
Music For Insomniacs
13 May 2014, 13:30 Written by Stephen Jenkins
You will probably recognise Matt Berry from the telly. The now star of Channel 4’s absurdly brilliant sitcom Toast of London has starred in many a turn for quality telly shows in recent years: as the pompous Douglas Reynholm in Channel 4’s The IT Crowd, the 70s pornstar-fashioned Dr Lucien Sanchez in the brilliant Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and as the might silver-horseshoe-moustachioed and giant pipe on wheels smoking Dixon Bainbridge from the BBC’s The Mighty Boosh.

When he’s not championing the virtues of egg in soup served with a pork pie, or doing booming voice-overs for adverts, Matt Berry is also a musician – but not a very funny one. The thing is, Matt Berry has never really been a comedian. His first passion was music making, and he has three LPs to his name already. So far through his musical career of gentrified folk-rock, no one has been able to deduce if he is being serious or taking the piss, but then again, Berry’s attitude towards his comedy acting and writing has never been unambiguous as he would often opt to evoke a sense of stilted absurdity rather than being straightforwardly funny. To put it in other terms, Berry is less “OMG LOLOL,” more “ha, er WTF?”

On his fourth album Music For Insomniacs, that absurdity comes through in disturbing degrees. The actor and songwriter has created a symphony for the sleep deprived, giving us a sonic tour of the tortured and restlessly creative mind. Or something like that. It’s probably more likely to be the product of a few too many coffees after 5pm which resulted in a bit of keyboard fiddling in the wee small hours. Either way, it sounds pretty cool.

The record blends together seamlessly in symphonic movements as it meanders from Kraftwerk inspired gothic keys to whooshy space age snythesisers and finally on to the sounds of cats mewing as their tails are presumably hammered by Berry’s katzenklavier. It really is as daft as it sounds. The album is a completely disorientating listen with vocoded vocals and little soundbites dispensed throughout, combining exploratory musical compositions with real world noises which sound a little bit frightening.

This is what the soundtrack to a really rubbish day to Alton Towers might sound like, the kind of day out when you accidentally eat a bowl of acid for breakfast and everything starts going a bit Wicker Man inside your head. There are babies crying over satanic prog-rock keyboards and cackles of laughter over the most sombre of chord progressions. Oh and I’m pretty sure there’s the bubbling sound of a man drowning in the log flume in there somewhere, as well as the neighing sounds of the horses from the petting zoo turning rampant like the fucking horses of the apocalypse.

For all its dense silliness, Music For Insomniacs really is quite a genuinely discomfiting experience. There is no doubting Matt Berry’s talents as a composer of absurd mood-music of nightmare proportions, and if there was a niche there to be filled then he more than fills it. Music For Insomniacs isn’t going to help you sleep at night and it isn’t going to have you in stitches of laughter, but what it will do is potentially scar you for life. Which is a good enough reason as any to listen to an album.

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