Gather Up box set
CD/DL available here
Release date 26th November
Matt Berry returns with a fantastic box set that spans his ten years with Acid Jazz, an incredible musician who dabbles with every genre in his own world of folk psych that has culminated in his masterpiece The Blue Elephant, one of our albums of the year. Wayne AF Carey reviews the chronicles of a true polymath…
Before you start I’ve not gone fuckin’ soft on you all. When I was asked to review The Blue Elephant (reviewed here) I actually didn’t realise who he was until someone mentioned Toast. What the fuck? THE Matt Berry? I was intrigued and did a bit of digging after listening to the brilliant Blue Elephant and discovered some gems from his early start with Acid Jazz. Lots of folk psych with a comedy twist that bowled me over. This box set is a great collection of all his albums in one beautiful package that celebrates his music in one book / CD compilation that’s an interesting read from the start.
CD1 is stuffed full of gems that cover an array of styles, from the classic Toast intro Take My Hand which is ingrained in my head after watching the comedy genius. I never even realised he’d written it until I did a bit of delving into his debut for Acid Jazz – Witchhazel. The wonderful Medicine from Kill The Wolf is another great catchy folk number and Badgers Wake captures his fascination with Horror Folk from the likes of The Wickerman and all those other unsettling films based in the eerie out in the sticks villages where no-one can hear you scream.
There’s his distorted rework of the World In Action theme tune, the countrified One By One, the excellent psych pop of Summer Sun and Like Stone from The Blue Elephant. This disc just spans the range of his musical abilities in just under eighty minutes. A stripped back Phantom Birds is another highlight with it’s flecks of Dylan coming across like a country classic, then you have the Eno inspired Music For Insomniacs part IV which soothes the brain, a live version of The Innkeepers song, and a whole lot more of heartfelt songwriting. If you want an introduction to Matt Berry and his music just look no further.
CD2 is Rarities & Unreleased which is full of early ideas that warp into the fully fledged tracks on his career spanning nine album. The original intro to Witchhazel, Bigger Than A Dog is a dialogue between Matt and another character who seem to get ripped apart by a werewolf in the closing scene, whereas an acoustic Take My Hand goes deep down into folk territory. There are some hidden gems that you find on most unreleased tracks including the excellent Theme From Sorry, Music For Insomniacs ‘rejected theme’ and some mental versions of The Blue Elephant which are stripped back and take you on a trip maaann. A must for the collectors.
CD3 is Phantom First which demonstrates Matt’s skill of building his creations into the excellent countrified stripped down Phantom Birds. Covered In Clowns is a mellow trip into Nashville at it’s best whereas Get Her Out Of My Mind gives us a glimpse into the future of his love of psych, especially when the Hammond organs make an entrance followed by some neat harmonica. There’s loads of good tracks on here including the excellent Make It Go Away which captures images of Bowie if he turned up in a spit and sawdust venue in Tennessee. Peter Cleopatra & The Windmill is a spoken word story backed by simple acoustic guitars and a creepy undertone about being followed by a spirit. Take A Bow sounds excellent with it’s stripped down beauty and country theme with daft lyrics and a twanging guitar that floats in and out. All in all it’s a real country affair that sounds as good as anything from that huge music scene that Matt has plundered to his own success. Charming stuff with an ironic comedy side.
CD4 Live At A Festival is a short collection of some of his live ventures with his band The Maypoles. Medicine sounds amazing, an anthem for the folkies that flows without sounding pretentious. A true slice of his musical ambition and insight that melds into So Low with a dirty Sabbath like riff that goes funky as fuck in the right place. The bass sounds dirty and low slung accompanied by a great guitar solo that’s short and sweet and doesn’t sound wanky. Silver Sun starts off with a real wonk psych feel and builds with some great drumming and freefall prog that lifts you higher than the sun. Theme From Snuffbox sounds amazing live and takes you right into a muddy field of part time acid freaks out for a buzz and a bong. A frazzled piece of noodling prog that hits the heights. Solstice is just a stunning piece of music that moves you on every listen. A slice of mellow space rock that sounds spiritual and Floydian. This was performed on a hot summers day and to be honest I could picture this as a song performed at dusk with a massive light show. If you don’t like prog rock then fuck off. This is a work of art that belongs next to the genius of Steve Wilson. Last track The Pheasant starts of like folk then turns into a funky as fuck psychedelic dream full of wah wahs and an addictive bassline that gives the whole song a backbone before drifting back into pure bliss with a piano line that builds into the funk again. Love it.
A great album for the uninitiated who only know Matt for his comedy. A stunning collection by any standard that welcomes you into the world of his music side. An astonishing musician who has lots more to offer if The Blue Elephant is anything to go by.
Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here