For its latest single, “Baby I’m Crying,” L.A. indie pop band Best Coast has taken an unconventional path on a couple of fronts: It’s a filmed-live-in-the-studio performance to capture the binaural 3-D recording process used on the track.
The melancholy pop waltz offers a characteristically lo-fi arrangement built around singer Bethany Cosentino’s sweetly unadorned vocals and twangy electric rhythm guitar and aching steel guitar work.
The recording itself lets Best Coast explore the world of three-dimensional recording possible with binaural technology, which differs in some key ways from multi-channel surround sound.
Far from a new development, binaural recording first surfaced in the late 19th century but has never caught on in a big way. It went through something of a resurgence in the 1960s — Capitol Records, among others, issued albums in binaural sound for a while — but now it is cresting again within the audiophile community.
Binaural sound uses two microphones positioned inside a dummy head to replicate the positioning of human ears. Done correctly, binaural sound captures a full 3-D sound field the same way human hearing does.
The trick is in the playback. The easiest way to experience it is through good quality headphones or ear buds. Illustrious, the company that recorded the Best Coast track, has created a system that also allows the 3-D effect to work through two normal loudspeakers.
As company founder Martyn Ware explains in accompanying videos that follow the Best Coast performance, “The world of three-dimensional soundscaping is much more about you being in the middle of an absolutely real experience.”
Here’s the video for “Baby I’m Crying,” and anyone interested in exploring more about the state of the art of binaural recording in 2014 can stick around and watch the concisely explanatory videos that follow automatically:
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