Today we sit back and zen out to the dulcet tones of Beijing duo FM3, pioneers of Chinese ambient who made a global splash when they released the first edition of their Buddha Machine in 2005. The Buddha Machine is a small plastic box with a built-in speaker and an embedded chip that plays a series of short, ambient electronic drones that the user may cycle through and let play on loop indefinitely, or at least until the AA battery inside runs out. It came out two years before the iPhone, and has been through five editions since, each with a new set of micro-compositions. For 2017, FM3 have re-pressed the original Buddha Machine in a suite of bright, shiny new packages.
Here’s a short video that gives you an idea of the sounds inside, and an image of how these tiny noise boxes are manufactured at FM3’s factory in Guangdong:
The Buddha Machine has turned a few heads in its 12 years of existence. Music site Tiny Mix Tapes, previewing the new re-issue, says:
In the time between then and now, the machine has garnered praise from the type of people that an ambient machine ought to be getting noticed by: Brian Eno, Phillip Glass, Throbbing Gristle, and David Byrne, who described the instrument/machine as a glimpse into the future of how music will be distributed to fans.
Indeed, David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) has glowing praise for the Buddha Machine’s mold-based, mold-breaking model in his 2012 book How Music Works. But the best thing about the Buddha Machine is it requires no operator’s manual, no signup procedure and no monthly service fee. Just click it on and meditate on how much you hate Tidal.
Pre-order your own copy of the Buddha Machine 1 ‘2017 Edition Loop Box’ here.