Recommended by us on 25th March 2011.
Having starred as eccentric explorer Dixon Bainbridge in The Mighty Boosh and Douglas Reynholm in The IT Crowd and co-written his own musical parody AD/BC: A Rock Opera with Richard Ayoade, Matt's own BBC3 comedy show Snuff Box (with Rich Fulcher) was, as they say, "well received". His position as one of the U.K's most compelling comedy talents duly confirmed with a nomination as Best Male Newcomer at the 2007 Comedy Awards. But we're not here to blow those particular trumpets. Rather, strum a more melancholy mandolin. Inspired partly by Richard Adams' Watership Down 'Witchazel' (Matt's first album 'proper' following limited releases 'Jackpot' and 'Opium') is a voyage into the heart of the countryside, where strange things happen and barn doors go creak in the night. Looking back, Matt Berry wouldn't have had it any other way. If his highly successful career as an actor/comedian/radio DJ hadn't sent him on a different trajectory, he wouldn't be where he is today, releasing his extraordinary new album 'Witchazel'. Recorded almost entirely in his front room, it is a collection of thirteen songs which will touch a central nerve with anyone with a fondness for British psychedelia and/or '70's folk. For Matt, it's a labour of love, pure and simple. Veering between spooked folk laments ('Accident At A Harvest Festival'), space rock tapestries (eight minute epic 'The Pheasant') and Donovan-esque pop ('Look In My Book'), it's quite simply a stunning record; the sort of woodland fantasia Fleet Foxes would make had they grown up in within earshot of the M25. If the massed mellotrons, fruity Hammond and prog-rock inflections (check out 'From The Manger To the Mortuary') makes it feel like a lost classic you've found in the racks of your favourite second hand record shop, it's deliberate. Anyone still thinking 'Witchazel' has a whiff of indulgence, meanwhile, should be directed to the brilliant, Todd Rundgren-ish 'Take My Hand'. Is there anyone out there making complex pop as smart and heartfelt as this?
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