Musician, writer and celebrated actor Matt Berry adds to his critically acclaimed string of records with his latest album The Small Hours. Strange things can happen during the morning twilight. Mysterious shapes appear and play tricks on the mind but it is also when the magic happens. Emerging from the darkness, Berry's new album captures that awakening feeling and the moment all his wild imagination springs to life. "The Small Hours is that time before dawn when we worry about things," tells Matt of the album's title and its beautifully complex and beguiling nature. "It can be an intensely quiet time so all your thoughts and fears can be amplified."
The Small Hours shows what happens at the point you finally fall to sleep then emerge from said slumber. Thoughts and fears manifest as dreams, which are captured through a mystical blend of prog-rock meets folklore-pop as Matt explains; "Watching my own head being decapitated in front of me and finding a laser gun buried in the woods... there's also reference to being an entertainer but finding it increasingly difficult to be entertained by my own art form."
Once again retaining his BAFTA-winning knack for storytelling, compelling characters and curious situations emerge through each song and whilst lyrically obscure at times, are wrought with serious underlying themes of death, religion and loneliness. Offering a sweeter taste to religion's often bitter pill to swallow, "The Peach & The Melon" places the Manson killings and cult-like philosophies at the heart of a wider misplaced focus whilst the wistful atmosphere of "Small Hours" poses a stark contrast to the upbeat "Beam Me Up," which waves a white flag at the prospect of alien abduction.
Recorded as live with his full band The Maypoles between Rimshot Studios in Kent and Matt's home studio in Rotherhithe by the Thames, The Small Hours strikes a balance between traditional psych-folk with a new age sound and it's through Matt's musicality that everything comes together. Crafted with musicianship akin to Beck, "Night Terrors" smooth jazz sound is ignited by snare rhythms that swell before exploding into an elaborate fairground waltz of alluring horns. "I was listening to a lot of jazz, mostly the electric Miles Davis early 70s period," recalls Matt. "also Clark, the British electronic composer which probably played its part in what I was creating at the time."
Laid down on 2" tape fed through a 60-year-old Decca mixing desk, natural harmonics are added to the rhythm section through swathes of acoustic strumming, Scott Walker style flourishes and subtle organ sounds while the hazy summertime groove of opener "One By One" marks the new habitat in which all Matt's thoughts and ideas – conscious or otherwise – can exist. "I did it the old fashioned way...making demos of each song, taking them to the rhythm section, rehearsing them then spending three days in the studio recording them," he says.
Alongside surprising field recordings, special guests and friends/band members appear including Ben Castle (sax, bass and clarinet), Steve Jourdonas (trumpet) and folk artist Cecilia Fage (backing vocals). Whilst adding their own expertise to the record, at its core is a composer running with the freedom to explore and create sound without restriction.