Breaking Features Interviews Jonas Gruska LOM

Bratislava’s LOM is bringing affordable field recording to the masses

Bratislava's LOM is bringing affordable field recording to the masses

With a variety of units for recording electromagnetic fields and set of affordable specialist microphones for budding field recordists, Bratislava’s LOM addresses a really particular drawback. John Twells talks to Jonáš Gruska to discover out what impressed him to assemble a group targeted on the quiet stuff.

It was whereas learning at The Netherlands’ Institute of Sonology that Slovakian sound artist Jonáš Gruska stumbled throughout the idea of field recording for the first time. Gruska had grown up learning classical guitar earlier than shifting his consideration to experimental music and noise and field recording promised a totally new world to the younger explorer.

“I started being fascinated by sound in general, regardless of whether it was musical or not,” Gruska defined to FACT’s Adam Badi Donoval earlier this yr. “I discovered a community of people who were interested in recording and listening to pretty much anything, without discrimination.”

Jonáš Gruska at LOM HQPhotography by: Lucia Kovalova

Gruska’s new obsession set him on the path to establishing LOM, a musical gadget producer, occasion promoter, document label, music studio and artist incubator. “It’s kind of a cliche story,” Gruska says from the LOM headquarters in Bratislava. “I was an experimental musician and a field recordist on a budget and I had to improvise with my gear because I couldn’t afford the proper things. So I started to build for myself and my friends became interested and their friends became interested and it slowly grew. I’m bootstrapped into the company now.”

Worth is a critical consideration for anybody wanting to get into sound recording. Whereas extra conventional devices may be discovered cheaply on-line, good recording gear is nonetheless too typically out of attain. Low cost microphones are available, however utilizing an off-the-shelf mic to document environmental sounds is a irritating expertise. Even the microphones provided with most moveable recording units may be disappointing. “They’re basically designed for music recording,” explains Gruska. “And it means they’re not really that sensitive – they’re not made to handle super tiny sounds and quiet sounds. They’re made so they don’t distort with very loud sounds, but our focus is on the other end of the spectrum. Our mics might not be right for super loud sounds, but they’re very focused on the quiet stuff.”

Bratislava's LOM is bringing affordable field recording to the massesUšiPhotography by: LOM

Gruska set about designing a variety of microphones with particular issues in thoughts. Primarily that they had to be low cost, however additionally they had to be detailed sufficient for the distinctive sort of recording that his new group was desirous about. “Our focus is towards the other end of the spectrum,” he explains. “Our mics might not be right for super loud sounds, they’re focused more on the quiet stuff. The point was to make them really suited for amateur field recordists.”

The flagship mannequin is the Uši, a pair of stereo-matched, top quality omni-directional electret microphones. Outfitted with an 1/eight″ stereo jack, the Uši may be plugged instantly into the affordable moveable recording units out there from Zoom, Tascam, Olympus and Sony. A primary mannequin, similar to the Tascam DR-05, may be acquired for round $100; the Uši prices €90 and a pair of particular windbubbles to shield the microphones from ugly interference will set you again €40. Altogether, an entire moveable field recording set may be bought for lower than the value of a Nintendo Change.

Bratislava's LOM is bringing affordable field recording to the massesmikroUšiPhotography by: LOM

Gruska has additionally designed an XLR-equipped Uši Professional for high-end customers; the mikroUši and mikroUši Professional, tiny mics with a 6.8mm diameter; the Ucho Professional, a single, phantom-powered mic with an XLR connector; and the mikroUcho Professional, a phantom powered mic with a tiny profile. It’s not simply field recordists who might make use of those; studio musicians are all the time in search of revolutionary methods to report troublesome sounds and Gruska has offered a refreshingly affordable set of instruments.

The dimensions of those microphones is essential. In case you’re a field recordist, having the ability to journey frivolously and discreetly is typically simply as essential as getting up shut. Plus, having tiny microphones that may be simply deployed into hole timber, shells, engines or carcasses can supply countless enjoyable for the budding Chris Watson aficionado. In the studio in the meantime, recording devices in new methods can crack open new horizons or assist clear up present issues. Recording “difficult” devices like glockenspiels or xylophones, for instance, is a lot much less worrying with the Uši Professional available.

LOM HQ frontPhotography by: LOM

LOM has grown quickly in the previous couple of years. Initially only a room in Gruska’s house (“my girlfriend at the time really hated the fact that there were electronic components everywhere”), the workshop quickly moved to a tiny laboratory area, earlier than increasing after which shifting to its present residence, a 280 sq. meter ex-butcher’s store that appears fated to have ended up as an experimental music analysis middle.

“The plan is to have a public space for workshops, lectures and quiet concerts,” he tells me excitedly. “In the basement we’re planning to open our own studio for LOM-related artists to use, and also we’re planning to build a small anechoic chamber there for microphone testing, or for people who would like to experience sensory deprivation. It’s all in a former state from the 1980s so we are slowly rebuilding it. I’m learning how to do all this – build stuff – which is a lot of fun actually. I really enjoy it as a switch from the computer work.”

Gruska has managed to construct greater than only a bodily location – he’s nurtured a group in Bratislava delicate to his objectives. “We have a very particular style of doing things,” he laughs. “Before we had the space, we were doing most of the events outdoors – in abandoned buildings around the city or under the bridge; these very peculiar spaces. We have a small solar-powered soundsystem that I built, so I can just play with the solar energy, powered by batteries. We don’t use diesel generators or anything, so we can play super quiet music. It’s a lot of fun to meet new people outdoors in new environments.”

LOM graphicIllustration by: Martina Pauková

The group additionally stretches outdoors Slovakia, thanks to the LOM Devices Fb group, the place customers can share recordings and chat about their experiences with Gruska’s units. There’s even assist offered to permit those that can’t afford the devices to buy cheap elements and construct their very own. “Because it’s open source it’s possible, and I wrote a little guide on how to do it,” says Gruska. “We also started this program a couple of years ago called LOM Plus U. We were accepting submissions from people on a budget, or who couldn’t afford our devices, and if we liked the project we sent them the device they desired. We’ve supported 10 or 11 people so far. Currently the program is on a break because we couldn’t deal with the amount of submissions – there was a lot of stuff coming in – but we’re going to resume it soon.”

Earlier than he began constructing microphones, Gruska developed the Elektrosluch, a handheld gadget designed for listening to and recording electromagnetic fields. The primary time I got here throughout one, it was being handed round at a pub in London to a refrain of coos from an crowd of observers. It’s the type of gadget that sparks an instantaneous response, revealing the dense, eerie sounds hanging in the air round any digital gadget.

LOM interiorPhotography by: Boris Vitazek

“After seeing some performances of people using pickup coils and guitar pickups for basically the same thing, I thought it would be quite good to make it into a special device for this purpose,” Gruska explains. “You don’t need anything else, you just plug in your headphones and go out and listen. It’s very accessible to even non-recordists, really anyone with a pair of headphones.”

The Elektrosluch is now in its fourth iteration and a brand new model is at present in improvement. This time round, Gruska has opted to enlist the assist of knowledgeable engineer. “Even though I studied experimental music, I knew next to nothing about electronics,” he says. I admit I’m shocked, given the high quality of LOM’s output. “I had to learn it all by myself, with the help of lots of friends of course. I’m trying to make the Elektrosluch more robust and just look more professional as an instrument and I’m revising the circuitry with every iteration to make it more hi-fi, to have more gain with less noise and to use just better components. As I’m learning about electronics it’s improving, and I’m working with an expert in low-noise pre-amplifiers for industrial purposes. So he will help me to adjust the circuits even more for what I need, but it will remain open source.”

Someway, Gruska has even discovered the time to work on a ardour challenge, an much more complicated electromagnetic listening device referred to as the Priezor. “It’s been a dream of mine for a couple of years to have a huge antenna that you can walk around with,” he says mischievously. “It’s inspired by the VLF community, which is a community of people listening to very low frequency radio, some people call it natural radio. And it’s basically about airborne electromagnetic sounds, something the Elektrosluch captures as well. They’re very faint and subtle, since they’re naturally generated, and there’s a whole community of people building receivers and antennae for listening to this phenomena.”

Bratislava's LOM is bringing affordable field recording to the massesElektrosluch three+Images by: LOM

This group grew from a worldwide collective of newbie radio lovers, or radio hams, who in one other period would spend days tinkering with difficult gear to find a way to talk with comparable lovers on the different aspect of the world. My nice grandfather was a radio ham, so it’s a well-known ardour; I keep in mind marveling at this mass of alien-looking know-how from an early age. “They don’t communicate with each other,” Gruska laughs. “They just listen to the sounds of the atmosphere of the universe. They are building these huge antennae with the same principle as the Priezor but they’re not very portable, so my goal was to bring this experience to a portable device and to bring more of an ambient sense of electromagnetics.”

Intriguingly, as Gruska developed these units, one other software turned clear to him, one that would take the humble Elektrosluch means past the realm of experimental music. “The new Elektrosluch is a big thing because I’m also planning to do it in a way that it could be used for scientific research,” he explains slowly. “So you would get calibrated output from the device and you could correlate the loudness of the signal with the exact value of the electromagnetic field.” I begin to lose monitor, so he clarifies. “You would be able to use it to research, for example, the electromagnetic interference from your cellphone. You could make some conclusions about how harmful it can be towards you or some devices around it.”

PriezorPhotography by: LOM

I’m shocked that one thing developed purely as a device for experimental musicians may need a wider utilization. Gruska in the meantime is cautious about the implications outdoors of his group. He’s notably frightened about the small quantity of people that declare to endure from electromagnetic hypersensitivity or EHS, a situation that has no scientific foundation as but, however is supposedly chargeable for complications, stress, fatigue and different illnesses. Gruska worries that having the ability to make the electromagnetic field extra tangible – having the ability to hear it and see knowledge instantly – might exacerbate the litany of signs.

“I travel around Europe a lot with these devices and show them to people at workshops,” he tells me. “Once in a while you reach a person who seems to already have this fear and once they hear it with the device it clearly makes the condition worse. They’re just terrified by what they hear and it seems like it’s not helping.”

Gruska is cautious to not draw any conclusions as the wider drawback of electromagnetic air pollution and its impact on people is not extensively understood. This is exactly why a tool like the Elektrosluch might show invaluable; at the very least, having the ability to acquire extra knowledge on the topic is very important in enhancing our understanding of the phenomenon.

“There are of course professional meters for the electromagnetic field but they’re extremely expensive if you want to get the proper calibrated ones,” he concludes. “Maybe offering something more affordable would be interesting?”

John Twells is FACT’s Government Editor and is on Twitter.

Learn subsequent: Sarah Davachi on the great thing about devices, from analog synthesizers to pipe organs

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