L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound takes French electronics activist and DJ’s Acousmatic 360° tour to new spatial territories
Paris-based producer and head of the Mille Feuilles label, Romain Delahaye – a.k.a. Molécule – has been called “the pioneer of nomadic electronic music,” and the artist takes his musical inspiration from far-flung locations, recording ambient sounds on his expeditions around the globe and turning them into lively, atmospheric musical creations. Molécule records sound in extreme locations: aboard a fishing boat in the Atlantic, in a village in Greenland or on the mythic surf swells of Nazaré in Portugal. More recently, he captured the sound of Thomas Ruyant’s monohull during the Vendée Globe yacht race. Molécule transforms his recordings into spatialized music with the help of sound designer Hervé Déjardin, engineer in charge of developing immersive audio at Radio France.
Now, Molécule and Déjardin have brought a 360-degree spatialized sound experience to concert audiences listening in darkness, in the round. With the moniker Acousmatic 360°, the duo have taken the concept on tour, using L-Acoustics’ L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology
The term acousmatic, from the Greek word akousma, ‘a thing heard’, can be traced back to Pythagoras. The philosopher tutored his students from behind a screen so as not to let his presence distract from the content of his lectures. Taking inspiration from the idea, Molécule discovered he could create extra synergy with his audience by extinguishing the lights. Molécule and Déjardin came up with the concept after performing at Paris’ Rex Club in 2018. As an experiment, they played in the dark. “Although the concert was scheduled for an hour, we kept going for over two hours because people were so into it,” declares Déjardin. After gathering audience feedback via a podcast, the live set-up was refined with further shows at La Cigale as part of the MaMA festival.
For their illumination-free, 360-degree sound concert of the future, Hervé and Molécule play in the centre of the auditorium, with an L-Acoustics Syva system circling both the performers and audience. “We have a special relationship with the audience because they are so close,” says Déjardin.
“With Acousmatic, we’re not on a pedestal, we’re in the middle of the show,” adds Molécule. “In terms of what spatialization adds to the show, there is a higher quality to the work and performance. At the same time, we have the pleasure of hearing the same sound as the audience and the quaity of the audio allows me to be really specific with the movement of the sounds, which means I can go deeper and deeper into the performance.”
The circle of 12 Syva, two Syva Low and four L-Acoustics KS28 dual 18″ subwoofers, provided by S Group, delivers substantial SPL with no distortion. “Syva is really impressive in this respect; when you’re in the surround system, you feel like you’re in a protective cocoon. It’s a very new experience,” Déjardin continues.
When Déjardin returns to the studio to mix these recordings, he notes that using L-ISA means many of his live mixes already have instruments and sounds precisely localised. He says he is able to pinpoint his live mix so well because the Syva cabinets reproduce incredibly accurately, and because recording in object mode avoids the restrictions of conventional stereo. Using a mix of software that he patches into L-Acoustics’ L-ISA Controller, Déjardin develops movements for each sound. L-ISA Controller’s touch-friendly interface enables advanced object-based mixing and extensive programming capabilities, with control of each sound object’s pan, width, distance, and elevation positions, with the use of immersive technology giving him the ability to create deeper emotions for the audience.
“The spatialization allows me to reinforce the key moments of the music,” he says. During the live performance, he will use the softer moments to pull back to a quieter sound, and even stop all movement. Then, when the music crescendos again, he’ll use the 360° capability to enhance the moment with quick movements.
Considering the difference between a stereo show and an immersive show, Molécule notes that in the live immersive shows, they have a tendency to play extended versions of songs: “We can take the time to create movements and bring the audience on a journey with us. We use the studio track as a base for us to jump off and fly, allowing us to improvise in the live show, where I can react to what Hervé is doing. The immersive audio is important to achieve that synergy between us.”
One of Molécule’s goals, together with Déjardin, is to bring their music as a showcase “to the four corners of the world.” He believes there’s a potential for his performances to encourage top clubs to re-equip with immersive sound systems. Outside of his own pleasure and that of the audience, Molécule considers the effort of equipping for immersive is justified, both for the performance and for the art itself. “In our immersive live performances, I find that the sound is even better than in my own studio!” he exclaims.
As the Live Acousmatic 360 ° tour continues into autumn 2021, Molécule is determined to continue his tenebrous electro research with L-Acoustics immersive sound, creating his own form of unique sensory performance.
Photo: © Goledzinowski