This library started out as a listening test, comparing currently available EMF Sensors. I chose a Plasma Ball as the test prop (basically a tiny Tesla Coil) and the EMF sensors include a LOM Elektrosluch 3+ and a SOMA Ether as well as a borrowed LOM Priezor. I had fun exploring different ways of having the Plasma Ball perform interesting sounds, using my fingers to earth arcs near the EMF sensors, as well as a fluorescent tube. But a surprise discovery was that I could also get the Plasma Ball to feedback!!
Turns out my Plasma Ball is sound reactive, in that it has a built in microphone and when switched to sound mode, creates bursts of arcs based on sound level. So first I tried using percussion mallets to tap out rhythms, then I tried three different metronomes to trigger it. But it was late one night I discovered the feedback!
Rather than using headphones, I was using a pair of JBL LSR26P studio monitors to listen to the EMF recording, and if I turned up their level when the plasma ball was in sound reactive mode, at a certain point feedback would occur, as the EMF was converted to audio, amplified and heard by the sound input of the plasma ball, creating more plasma arcs… When it was just on the edge of feedback, I could trigger bursts of rhythmic feedback by tapping the case of the plasma ball with a mallet or one of the metronomes. I presume the rapid speed of the feedback rhythms is due to having my Sound Devices MixPre10-II in the feedback path, with the small lag of A/D/A functioning as a short delay.
The result of my ‘simple’ test comparing EMF sensors generated so much interesting material that I thought it was worth sharing as a mini FX Library. Please also below for details on each EMF sensor and how to DIY build a LOM Priezor.
EMF LISTENING TESTS!
So how do the three sensors compare?
The library is almost presented in chronological order:
First I explored the Plasma Ball using the LOM Elektrosluch 3+ which I recorded SD028 EMF Library with and know well. In its base steady state the Plasma Ball generates a soft shushing sort of sound, but as soon as a finger touches the ball, earthing the plasma, the EMF changes significantly, and adding more fingers increased density and interference.
Second I explored the LOM Priezor and noticed the effects of proximity were more apparent, enabling gestural use. I feel the Priezor is more sensitive than E3+ which makes sense as its a far larger loop.
Third was the SOMA Ether which is not strictly an EMF Sensor since it also seems to pick up any stray frequencies including radio broadcast. While this makes the Ether more varied, one aspect I really struggled with was that Ether seems to have heavy AGC – auto gain control. For example if I turned off the power of the Plasma Ball so as to record a ‘clean start’ the two LOM sensors would fall silent, whereas Ether would get far louder as its gain auto increased and it latched on to hum, EMF and noise from the recorder, speakers, lights, camera etc…
To provide more direct comparisons, next I recorded with all three sensors simultaneously. And then introduced a fluorescent tube and grinned like an idiot as I also got it to feedback!
My pick of the three is the Priezor, although the E3+ is a close second and ‘different’ rather than better/worse. But if like me you’ve been waiting forever for a LOM Priezor to become available, please be aware that they are available but only if you order some parts and do some basic DIY, perhaps learning some useful skills along the way, details below… Interestingly I tried using the Priezor with one of my Barcus Berry contact mic preamps and found the added sensitivity useful, so I will terminate my two DIY Priezors to 1/4″ jacks to enable this.
DIY a LOM Priezor?
As you may know, LOMs products often sell out in minutes. I had been waiting, patiently hoping that LOM would do another run of the Priezor for years, and had all but given up when a FB comment (thanks Shaun!) mentioned that LOM products were open source, with full build docs available on Github!
I had a look at the instructions and realised I could easily build a Priezor, step 1 was ordering the parts: some copper wire and small bolts, spacers & nuts. Step 2 required laser cutting acrylic for the frame, which I had done previously with Ponoko.com when I had them laser cut Daxophone tongues from wood and plastic.
But one minor issue I ran into was that the dxf file for the parts had been created with all parts stacked in layers. Ponoko require a single layer with no overlaps so I reorganised the dxf file and ordered enough parts for two Priezor sensors. But I also thought it is silly if every person who wants to make a DIY Priezor has to rearrange the dxf file, so I contacted Jonas at LOM and gently requested he provide an updated dxf, with all parts laid out flat with no overlaps. Last Friday he updated the LOM Github with a new A3 size dxf file, which makes ordering laser cut parts simple! Thank you Jonas for this and for sharing your knowledge by making your projects open source. So I ordered the parts and this arrived:
Next to wind the coils….
I’ve been a fan of glitch for a few decades now, and still remember the first time I heard Kit Claytons album Nek Sanalet, leading to exploring the Mille Plateaux label, their Clicks n Cuts compilations as well as Dub Tractor, Future 3, Opiate, Alva Noto, Ryoji Ikeda etc.. So it amuses me that all these years later I found a way to make really aggressive glitch rhythms without using any programming, DSP or data moshing! Recording was especially fun as every sound had an accompanying visual burst of plasma arcing, acting almost like a visual glitch! I may not have got to any gigs in the last two years, thanks to COVID, but recording this library was like its own totally absorbing glitch fest! I’m going to be loading these into my Kontakt patches and also re-sequencing them…