Paris-based producer and head of the Mille Feuilles label, Romain Delahaye, a.k.a. Molécule, who’s been called “the pioneer of nomadic electronic music” in taking his musical inspiration from far-flung locations, is partnering with sound designer Hervé Déjardin to bring 360-degree spatialized sound to concert audiences listening in darkness, in the round, using L-Acoustics L-ISA immersive hyperreal sound technology.
With the moniker Acousmatic 360°, the duo has taken the concept on tour. 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,” says Déjardin. After gathering audience feedback via a podcast, the live setup was refined with further shows at La Cigale as part of the MaMA festival.
For their illumination-free, 360-degree concert, Déjardin and Molécule play in the center 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,” Déjardin explains.
“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 quality 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-inch subwoofers, provided by S Group, delivers substantial SPL. “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 accurately localized. 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 object-based mixing and 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.”