Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Check Your Style

Matt Berry is probably best known as a comic actor familiar from appearances in ‘Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place’, ‘The I.T Crowd’ and his own occasionally brilliant series ‘Snuff Box’, as well as lending his fruity, self-consciously dramatic voice to a raft of TV adverts. He is lesser known, however, as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, music producer, writer and performer with three interesting LP’s to his name.

His latest, ‘Witchazel’ (2009) is a blend of 80’s pop, quirky folk, pastoral prog and gentle psychedelia, and is unlike any other new record I’ve heard this year. There’s some very good stuff on here, often without revealing any particular point of reference or fitting into any recognisable genre. Whereas many contemporary artists reveal their influences on a song by song, verse by verse, note by note basis, Berry has his own sound, an amalgam of different styles filtered through an idiosyncratic mind and pieced together in seclusion for his own amusement.

He plays more or less all of the instruments on the album himself, including forgotten favourites the glockenspiel, the accordion and the melotron, and provides excellent (though higher than expected given his dulcet speaking voice) vocals. He also has a nice sense of melody and, as you may expect given his day job, has an amusing way with an offbeat lyric, although none of the songs are overtly comic in nature. Far from being a vanity project (despite the appearance of guest star for hire Paul McCartney in a sleepy but quite funny cameo), ‘Witchazel’ is a fine album that deserves a wider audience. ‘Take My Hand’ is probably the most immediate track on the album, and ‘Rain Came Down’ is the track with a fleeting appearance by Sir Macca.

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