Review: FM3 - Buddha Machine II (2008)


artist: FM3
title: Buddha Machine II
format: sound box
year of release: 2008
label: self released
dur­a­tion: 4:46

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com.

When it comes to releas­ing music, there are of course pos­sib­il­it­ies bey­ond the usual CD, LP, cas­sette or MP3. FM3, a col­lab­or­a­tion between Chris­ti­aan Vir­ant and Zhang Jian, proves this by mak­ing, instead of a reg­u­lar album, an elec­tronic sound box with nine dif­fer­ent med­it­at­ive ambi­ent loops. It is a kind of tran­sistor radio, with volume knob, head­phone jack, a but­ton for chan­ging tracks, and a pitch-shifter.

As the name sug­gests, Buddha Machine II is a sequel to an earlier Buddha Machine that appeared in seven flashy col­ours, also con­tained nine loops, but came without a pitch-shifter. The idea is derived from a kind of Chinese radio that loops Buddhist chants. The new ver­sion comes in three more sooth­ing col­ours (grey, brown, and bur­gundy) and con­tains nine new loops. Since the added pitch-shifter func­tion appealed to me, I decided to opt for the latest ver­sion.
The sound is a bit gritty, but this is some­how fit­ting for the music. Some loops are a little more intense than oth­ers, but it all fits nicely, and the pitch­shifter is also nice to play with. It’s hardly sur­pris­ing, then, that the Buddha Machines have been used by vari­ous artists, such as on Robert Henke’s Lay­er­ing Buddha, an album con­sist­ing solely of play­ing and mix­ing dif­fer­ent Buddha Machines. Juke­box Buddha is a com­pil­a­tion with entries by among oth­ers Blixa Bargeld and Sunn O))), which is also con­struc­ted using plays, remixes and frag­ments of the Buddha Machine.
The only down­side is that I hoped to find a genu­ine mini­ature Buddha in the machine, as is sug­ges­ted on the accom­pa­ny­ing image. Upon open­ing the device, how­ever, a mild, child­like dis­ap­point­ment crept over me, as I encountered many things, but no Buddha. It goes to show that even here the dis­en­chant­ment of the world has struck. Too bad, because it would have been a nice gim­mick to include an actual fig­ur­ine.

For musi­cians, of course, the Buddha Machine offers artistic pos­sib­il­it­ies, although one should beware of the trend­i­ness of this kind of innov­a­tion - before you know it it gets used too often, and the ori­gin­al­ity soon fades. For me it is first and fore­most a nice gad­get, because I can appre­ci­ate fun ideas like this.

Reviewed by D.M.K.

Track­list:

1. Mao (0:47)
2. Li (0:25)
3. Piano (0:26)
4. Ceng (0:15)
5. Xi (0:58)
6. Gen (1:06)
7. Yu (0:10)
8. Dui (0:21)
9. Huan (0:08)

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