Clash (magazine) - "[T]he instrumental jazzathon `Night Terrors' rocks up to the party with a lopsided grin and a picnic hamper of hard drugs."
Personnel: Matt Berry (vocals, electric guitar, mandolin, ukulele, piano, electric piano, Farfisa, Mellotron, synthesizer, xylophone, waterphone); Andy Vickery (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Ben Castle (alto flute, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone); Paul Jordanous (trumpet); Graham Mann (trombone, percussion); Abby Naylor (tenor horn); Phil Scragg (bass guitar); James Sedge (drums, percussion); Cecilia Fage (background vocals).
Recording information: Rimshot Studios, Kent; The Centre of Excellence, Rotherhithe, London.
Matt Berry may be best known for his series of hilarious characters on TV shows like The IT Crowd, Snuff Box, and Toast of London, but he's had a musical career cooking along at the same time. With interests in space jazz, pastoral folk, wibbly prog rock, synthesizer music, and smooth indie pop, by the time of his 2016 album, The Small Hours, Berry had explored all these avenues on albums he'd mostly recorded on his own in a home studio. For The Small Hours, he and his live band laid down the main tracks before Berry headed home to add vocals and embellishments to the mix. Unsurprisingly, it's the first album he's done that has a "band" feeling to it, like a collaboration among like-minded musicians instead of something cooked up by one guy in his laboratory of sound. There's a looseness to the sound that gives it some needed warmth and dynamics, while there are still enough vintage synths and spacy overdubs to keep it weird and home-cooked. So, the best of both worlds. It's also home to the best batch of tunes Berry has written yet, ranging from poppy singalongs and Steely Dan-like soft rock to cinematic ballads and warped prog rock jamming. A few standouts feel like they could be mixtape staples for the more open-minded indie pop fans, like the rollicking "The Peach & the Melon," the Motown-bouncy "Lord Above," or the organ-overloaded "Obsessed and So Obscure." With no weak cuts and only the overly long jazz-prog jam feeling a little out of place smack dab in the middle of the album (the end would have made more sense), the whole thing has a pleasant, low-key charm brought home by Berry's charming everyman voice, his quirky lyrics, the lush vocal harmonies, and the wide range of vintage key sounds. Not to mention the abundance of good tunes. So many actors have made bad or embarrassing albums, it's almost easy to overpraise Berry for making something as good as The Small Hours. That being said, the true test of its worth might be to imagine it was made by someone without an acting CV as impressive as Berry's. Put to that test, the album and artist still deserve any and all praise that come their way. ~ Tim Sendra
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