“Great fun… lovingly dashed off in a few hours, in homage to the way library musicians had to work”: Matt Berry’s Simplicity

Matt Berry- Simplicity
(Image: © KPM / Acid Jazz)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Matt Berry’s trajectory over the past 20 years is pretty extraordinary. Starting off with scene-stealing roles in prog-friendly comedies Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh, he’s rapidly progressed to alternative national treasure, starring in the shows Toast Of London and What We Do In The Shadows.

Yet in parallel to his acting career and OTT thespian persona, he’s also proved to be a musical polymath, releasing a series of albums that cover bases including folk pop, ambient, psychedelia and jazz rock. His latest project is a hook-up with library music label KPM, another national institution that’s provided the classic theme tunes to numerous TV shows, from Grandstand and World Of Sport to Grange Hill and Captain Pugwash.

Walking in the footsteps of revered KPM composers such as Alan Hawkshaw, Keith Mansfield and John Cameron must have been a little daunting for Berry, but as an aficionado of vintage gear and the library music aesthetic, he pulls the project off with some aplomb.

Simplicity is a collection of short, snappy instrumentals packed with hooks and energy, designed to be repurposed by any TV company that needs music for its latest production. As such, the tracks are entirely utilitarian and skip between genres with unself-conscious ease. Berry performs everything himself save for the drums, with Craig Blundell whipping up a flurry of snares and hats.

Top Brass kicks the album off, its funky beat and throbbing bass enhanced by staccato strings and horns to create maximum excitement. It’s the type of orch rock mash-up that feels completely natural, and could teach prog bands who dabble in this territory a thing or two. 

Driving Seat has a propulsive, One Of These Days-style undercarriage, while Set The Scene begins with some moody synth before the tempo picks up with a groovy squall of organ. What’s great about these tracks is their sense of immediacy, as though they’ve been lovingly dashed off in a few hours of available studio time, in homage to the way that library musicians often had to work.

Simple Basics sounds like it could be the theme to a current affairs show for kids before moving into spacier territory, with jazzy guitar and Philly strings building to a great climax. Too Many Hats is even wilder, encompassing chin-stroking piano and synth, a tango section and some Shaft-esque wah-wah. And Telescopic rounds things off nicely with tense thriller vibes, all drifting Rhodes and stalking bass as an assassin lines up their latest target... Simplicity is great fun and another string to Berry’s already impressive bow.

The album is on sale now via KPM / Acid Jazz.

Joe Banks

Joe is a regular contributor to Prog. He also writes for Electronic Sound, The Quietus, and Shindig!, specialising in leftfield psych/prog/rock, retro futurism, and the underground sounds of the 1970s. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, MOJO, and Rock & Folk. Joe is the author of the acclaimed Hawkwind biographyDays Of The Underground (2020). He’s on Twitter and Facebook, and his website is https://www.daysoftheunderground.com/