2 min

Xpujil, a sound narrative by Nova Materia

Xpujil is the ambitious new work by the Franco-Chilean duo Nova Materia. A series of binaural recordings made in the ruins of the Mayan city of Xpujil form the raw materials for a hybrid immersive experience.

© Philippe Levy

Raw materials

Caroline Chaspoul and Eduardo Henriquez met in the 1990s, when they co-founded the French-Chilean alternative rock band Pánico. After a long career straddling two continents, they travelled to the Atacama Desert in 2010 for a cathartic experience that was documented in the film The Band that Met the Sound Beneath. Among the stones and sand, whose sonic energies they tried to capture, they decided to make a radical change in their way of composing. This was the genesis of Nova Materia, an electronic music duo that works with elements from field recordings. Signed to the prestigious independent label Crammed Discs, they released their first album, It Comes, in 2018.


The world of plants

Xpujil, Nova Materia's second album, is an experiment in mixed media. Composed from recordings made at the Mayan archaeological site of Xpujil, in the Mexican jungle, it is a binaural album where the recordings have been speeded up, slowed down or manipulated, in order to bring out rhythmic patterns and melodies. The rustling of insects, the eerie songs of birds and the cries of monkeys blend together to form hallucinatory sound loops. Particular importance was also attached to the spatialisation of the sound, in order to obtain a result that can be used for an immersive live experience.


The haunted ruins

During a trip to the Mexican jungle, Caroline Chaspoul and Eduardo Henrique discovered the Mayan city of Xpujil, an architectural complex buried in the jungle, of which only a small part has been cleared. In this landscape, seemingly haunted by the remains of a vanished civilisation, where the boundaries between man and nature are gradually disappearing, the two musicians made durational recordings using state-of-the-art equipment allowing for immersive sound reproduction using binaural technology. The duo also invited the musician Ikue Mori, who specialises in the sound world of insects, and the cellist Gaspar Claus to take part.


A fully immersive spectacle

Xpujil was mixed in the Gaité Lyrique studios to create a unique psychoacoustic experience. Xpujil is not just an album, but a genuinely immersive narrative that will be produced in several iterations. An interactive website, created by the artist Mélanie Courtinat, will take you on an immersive journey, in the style of a video game, through the verdant ruins of the Mayan city. Four live sessions will also take place at the Gaité Lyrique, combining a live concert, headphone listening, and appearances from a range of guests, exploring further the various themes sketched out by the album. Finally, a 360° audiovisual and immersive show lasting one hour and twenty minutes will recreate the visual and sound environment of the city of Xpujil in the main concert hall.

The Institut français and the work

Nova Materia will present Xpujil at la Gaîté Lyrique. Gaîté Lyrique regularly collaborates with the French cultural network abroad.