Xpujil (pronounced ex-poo-khil) is a single, 40-minute immersive piece which takes the listener on a sonic journey through an organic and shifting world. An album which blurs the limits between music, field recording and psychoacoustic trance.
The project started with a walking trip taken by the Nova Materia duo (Eduardo Henriquez & Caroline Chaspoul) through the Mexican jungle, towards the ruins of the ancient Maya city of Xpujil. Under scorching heat, amidst omnipresent insects, dense and sinuous vegetation, and the cries of animals, they access a different, haunted world, which feels almost sacred and supernatural. The living beings of the forest (humans, animals, plants) are there without being seen, they are mostly perceived by the ear. And then, the ruins: this great city, which was a major political, scientific and religious centre in the Mayan kingdom, is still partly entangled in the jungle, but the pure, almost futuristic architectural design of the buildings is striking.
Throughout the trip, Nova Materia recorded the surrounding soundscapes with binaural microphones. Upon their return to their studio in Paris, these recordings became the foundation of this new work. They processed and transformed the sounds until melodies emerged, which they then enhanced by using sparse instrumentation (gongs, ocarinas and electronics). Different textures were added with contributions by two guests: New York-based musician Ikue Mori (of DNA fame), who has often worked on electronic reinterpretations of the world of insects, and adventurous cellist Gaspar Claus (who collaborates with musicians across all genres, from Rone to Jim O’Rourke).
The piece was mixed in binaural at at Studio Cosmos Acoustique at Gaité Lyrique (the Parisian centre for digital arts), with tools developed by IRCAM, and an 8-way sound system, allowing for sound spatialization in a real immersive situation.
The Xpujil project will be developed (in partnership with la Gaîté Lyrique) across several mediums and platforms, ranging from a simple binaural experience with headphones to a full immersive audiovisual live performance, an interactive website, and a regular series of binaural livestreamed performances, with contributions by invited musicians and writers. Initial performances are scheduled for the autumn of 2021.
Nova Materia are already known for their powerful, hypnotic music which incorporates eerie sounds generated by raw and mineral materials (metal, rocks etc) to create tracks that are in turn hyper-rhythmic and dreamy, poised between postpunk rock and electronic dance music. But the band have also been very active in the field of multimedia & performance arts, often collaborating across genres with video artists, filmmakers, theatre directors and writers. Xpujil explores that other dimension of their talent, and aims at developing original ways of exploiting some emerging digital trends, as well as the current, unusual situation, which spawns new directions for live music.
Nova Materia are Caroline Chaspoul and Eduardo Henriquez, formerly with Panico, the alternative rock band they founded in Chile, with which they toured around the globe and released several albums.