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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

What a fascinating addition to the multi-talented Matt Berry's ever-growing catalogue of music “Music For Insomniacs” is. If you enjoyed his psych-prog-folk “Kill The Wolf” album from last year, there's absolutely no guarantee that you're going to like this one, I'm afraid. In fact, this music pre-dates much of “Kill The Wolf” as it was recorded during bouts of insomnia between March and May 2012, hence the title, and is really quite different to the kind of music Matt is best known for so far in his career. Recorded on a huge range of classic synthesisers, electric pianos, Mellotron and organs and split into two movements (“Music For Insomniacs, Parts 1 & 2”), each around the twenty-three minute mark, the almost wholly instrumental “Music For Insomniacs” begins with a quick burst of choral music and then segues into a synth and organ line which sounds like a cross between Mike Oldfield and Bach. Immediately, I am struck by the gentle, calming nature of the music; this really is the kind of album that would soothe the proverbial savage beast. Or perhaps help with a bout of insomnia? Maybe not, as this album deserves a bit more of your attention than simply using it to lull you to sleep.

If you listen carefully, you can deduce that the first few minutes of music could be interpreted as classical variations on the “Kill The Wolf” opener, “Gather Up”. “Part 1” then goes forward as an ambient, sparse, chilled-out piece, utilising keyboard and organ sounds and a whole lot of space. There are even barely audible whisperings in the background, giving it a touch of early Pink Floyd. At the ten minute mark, the closest influence I could cite on the piece would be seventies Jean-Michel Jarre or “Low”-era Bowie as a wave of synthesisers build beautifully into a dramatic crescendo as background noises, such as door closing and electronic bird calls, occasionally impede on the crests and falls of the undulating music. It's truly rousing stuff. The eighteen minute mark sees the introduction of a theme that many Matt Berry fans will be familiar with, a light, whimsical version of “October Sun” which sounds like the kind of thing that could have appeared on an album by The Moog Cookbook.

“Part 2” begins with more “Oxgene”-era Jarre-like walls of shimmering synthesised sound which are coupled with bursts of rippling noises, allowing the listener to close his or her eyes and get lost deep within the calming music. At just before the five minute point, a rather mournful theme takes over which grows in momentum until it is joined by vocoder-enhanced vocals (again, virtually indecipherable), booming drums, ringing pianos and chiming bells, giving Mike Oldfield a run for his money in the ethereal prog-rock stakes. In the next passage, there is a Eno-esque expansive feel, bringing to mind either infinite space or, more likely by the sound effects which follow it, the ocean; either way, it's grandiose and mesmerising. At approximately the nineteen minute point, the piece then transforms into an pleasant, upbeat theme aping Jean-Michel Jarre in his Caribbean phase, which fades out and brings the album to an eclectic conclusion.

In essence, this is a really enjoyable diversion from the usual music I am used to buying and listening to and it is really quite refreshing to hear an album like “Music For Insomniacs” released in 2014. Naturally, this isn't going to be for everyone and I would recommend that, unless you're extremely enthusiastic about buying it purely based on everything I have described, you should probably listen to samples before parting with your hard-earned money. This album of what can only be described as creative, inspired soundscaping is likely to be a bit of an acquired taste and something that you would need to be completely open to. It would be easy, for example, for someone with purely shallow tastes to label this as “boring” (although I really don't know what such a person would be doing buying Matt's music in the first place). I have to admit that this album is right up my street, both being a fan of Matt Berry's music and someone who appreciates artists in a similar field to this release, such as Mike Oldfield, Sky, Jean-Michel Jarre and any others who fuse classical leanings together with prog-rock and electronica. Also, the more I have listened to it (I'm on my sixth playback right now), the more I enjoy it and appreciate the subtlety and intricacies of each passage, knowing how much detail and creativity has gone into it. Matt may be less than serious on our screens, but he's most certainly a serious musician and this underlines his credentials as one of the most interesting and left-field artists making music right now. More, please.
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on 11 February 2015
A brave project that pretty much works. There are only 2 instrumental tracks, each over 20 minutes long. Matt plays lots of instruments and once you're in the flow of it all, it's pretty good. When it comes to epic 20 minuters, the Floyd's Echoes and the original Tubular Bells are still my favourites but these 2 tracks come very close.
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on 16 March 2016
overtones of Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and Mike Oldfield
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on 20 May 2014
First there was Brian Eno's Music for Films and Music for Airports in the seventies, and now in 2014, Matt Berry brings us Music for Insomniacs. Once again Matt Berry is really wearing his influences on his sleeve with nods to the pioneers of electronic music, in particular, Jean-Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield.

This certainly isn't plinky plonky ambient music though. The album comprises two long instrumental pieces, which ebb and flow, with the sounds of beautiful choral voices, tinkling keyboards, pulsating rhythms, children playing, flutes, creepy sound effects, distant dreamlike voices, a vocoder, and big grandiose synthesisers, all structured around some very melodic motifs, one of which is from Village Dance on Matt Berry's Kill the Wolf album.

If you pine for the old days of Tubular Bells and Oxygene then this album is definitely for you.
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VINE VOICEon 28 May 2014
Fresh from being comedically pleasing, and adding interludes to the work of Messrs Duckworth and Lewis, comes this odd little confection. In recent interviews Berry has mentioned that this album was mostly composed in the midst of insomnia, and that he has a deep love of both Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene. Indeed, the whole album seems flecked with a love of 70s prog-leaning electroacoustic music.

This much is obvious. Listening to this album there are numerous examples of the influence of both Jarre and Oldfield, with Oxygène's broad washes of synth and Tubular Bells' "girly choruses" (to borrow Mike Oldfield's description) recurring. But there are also certainly snatches of Bach and Wendy Carlos, Terry Riley's A Rainbow In Curved Air (especially in part 1), and even (to a lesser extent) Jarre's Music for Supermarkets (around 7 mins into part 1).

My own personal favourite morsel comes around 19 minutes into part II, where we hear the sound of something akin to a stoner trying to play Axel F. Fabulous.

It's a lovely album to listen to in a dark room, or in the car for a drive in the night-time. A delicate and lovely thing and worth a purchase, even if it is significantly different from earlier work.
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on 11 June 2014
Is there no end to this man's talent? This is top notch old school synth stuff - think of it as a fusion between Mike Oldfield, Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis. Not a rip-off by any stretch of the imagination....more a carefully crafted and considered tribute. A tasteful nod to their musical greatness. Take the best attributes of these three musical gods and roll them into two tracks....yes, just two tracks......two sides of vinyl if you're hard-core old school. Lovely compositions which will take you on a musical journey....maybe even send you to sleep....not a criticism but a testament to how accessible this album is. Oh and the cover is great .......Matt designed that too. I often buy albums on the strength of their covers.....sometimes I'm disappointed......but this is looks and sounds great. Pure Genius!
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VINE VOICEon 29 December 2014
Matt Berry is a common face in TV comedies of late, featuring in the IT Crowd, House of Fools and his own Toast of London, but away from his boorish screen persona, Berry is a talented musician and songwriter. His last two critically acclaimed folk themed albums Witchazel and Kill the Wolf show a deft skill in producing delicate and melodic songs with a wistful edge. His latest offering, Music for Insomniacs was reportedly written and recorded during a bout of his own insomnia in 2012. Wearing his influences firmly on his sleeve, this album of two twenty minute tracks, moves away from folk and wraps us in a dreamlike soundscape filtered through 1970s electronica. There are hints of Human League and Kraftwerk but this is predominantly a love letter to Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield. As the title suggests this soporific album is an ideal late night soundtrack, but is equally good as background music when lush audio wallpaper is required. I loved it.
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on 20 June 2014
This is a great album. Right from the beginning it weaves loads of interesting and pleasing sounds and motifs together really skillfully. There's no filler and it somehow keeps the slow momentum going all the way through. It's good for sitting about, working and even driving but I'm not sure it would help you get to sleep- There's a couple of really loud / scary bits quite a long way in that would give you a shock just as you're nodding off.
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VINE VOICEon 27 May 2014
I enjoyed this gentle, and somewhat mellow couple of tracks. The first track reminded me for the first few minutes of the soundtrack music to Italian horror movies, with synth washes, classical-sounding riffs (House by the Cemetery springs to mind here) and disembodied chants. Much of the rest is far mellower. However, I enjoyed it a lot. Nice to just chill out to.
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on 30 August 2014
It's like Tubular Bells made in a giant water bubble in space by stoned mermaids on LSD.
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