Matthew Herbert presents A Nude Review

Camden Roundhouse – 10 August.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Matthew Herbert’s latest album “A Nude (The Perfect Body)” is comprised of recordings of the sounds of a naked body recorded over 24 hours. With tracks entitled Is sleeping, Is grooming, Is eating and Is coming, Herbert manages to transform sounds we hardly notice into a stunning soundscape.

Ron Arad’s Curtain Call is the perfect space in which to experience Herbert’s piece. Entering the ring of silicon rods, Is Sleeping played – snores and subtly introduced sounds that invite you to sit on the floor and relax in this intimate space. As the piece progressed, images of male and female bodies were projected onto the rods, producing a wonderfully immersive experience, and as the sounds of brushing teeth grew into a train-like frenzy, naked dancers became visible outside the curtain, acting out the actions of the body. Up until this point I had admired, rather than enjoyed the music, but the beats of Is Eating were brilliantly realised, being probably the most conventional section, and the remainder of the performance built brilliantly to a fantastic climax – literally.

The sounds of eating an apple morphed into something reminiscent of a gun battle, followed by a calmer, haunting section where the spotlight fell on the dancers as their huge silhouettes were displayed on the rods. Music from toilet sounds shouldn’t be a good idea, but Is Shitting, after the smiles of realisation, soon becomes all about the music, not the instrument.

Quieter sections had the dancers grabbing handfuls of rods and peeking through into the space – a little creepy – and then the increasing tempo was matched by the dancers running frantically around the outside of the curtain, pulling the rods as they moved, creating an almost hypnotic ripple around the space, finally breaking through to the centre of the ring and running around through the audience.

Sitting outside the curtain with his team and a bank of electronic gismos, Herbert oversaw the whole thing with great skill. I don’t think I’ll be buying the album, but the visual and aural experience in such a fantastic setting was uplifting, almost ethereal, and one that I’ll never forget.

Support act Lail Arad, daughter of Ron, performed next, after a short interval – and this structure worked brilliantly, as her quirky songs would have created a very different mood to “Is Sleeping”. Arad’s set from her new album “The Onion” opened with a poem comparing a relationship to a 5 year bath, and accompanied only by her acoustic guitar, she proceeded to charm the socks of the remaining audience with her bittersweet songs and pithy lyrics. Now THIS is an album I’ll buy! Using the curtain to great effect, her set was accompanied sensitively by images of a pen writing her lyrics, ink blots and water, turning the installation into a more relaxed and cosy space.

Two very different acts, both exceptional, and a wonderful night of music.