"Jukebox Buddha"

The first compilation devoted to pieces made with the FM3 Buddha Machine includes 15 efforts by artists such as Blixa Bargeld, SunnO))), Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Adrian Sherwood + Doug Wimbish, Es, and Sun City Girls. Overall it achieves a collective consistency which may transcend what Derek Bailey called "lounge electronics, mumbling electronics."



I'm possibly one of the last brainwashed readers to learn that the two members of FM3 created the Buddha Machine, a plastic, battery-operated device resembling a pack of cigarettes or a cheap AM radio, containing nine different brief ambient snippets that loop endlessly. Whether their original idea was to subvert, mimic, or pay homage to chanting devices that have long been sold in temple gift shops all over China, is unclear and unimportant. Not surprisingly, Brian Eno wet his pants over the device, though to be fair his interest in endlessly self-mutating music is well documented and I mustn't let the fact that I don't yet have one color my comments. Some people buy several and play them simutaneously for the interplay, and it's said that a single device sounds different depending upon location. As with The Caretaker's recent meeting demand by supplying a six-disc set that was available for free download, and his gorgeous blue vinyl edition of Stairway To The Stars, here is further proof of the enduring seductive lure of a physical element in music packaging. The Buddha Machine may resemble the fetishistic magnetism of the i-pod, but in seeking to add nothing to itself, it is the opposite of that ubiquitous mini-library.

This record is the first commercially available attempt at compiling music derived specifically from those original nine loops. There might be a bit too much going on here for this album to be used as a tool for actual meditation, but generally the inactive listener isn’t distracted by much. Alog’s "A Dragon Lies Listening" where cooing gives way to nuances of Mongolian throat singing and choppiness, gets a bit worked up, but it could hardly be described as a barrage of glitch. Likewise, Jan Jelinek, Andrew Pekler and Hanno Leichtmann’s "BuddhaMachineCommercial" could sound like crass intrusion into the calm flow, but their welcome cheekiness recalls both the brilliant spoof ads of Sudden Sway and the unintentional humor of the recent Radio Thailand. The running order is good, especially when the slightly unholy and naturalistic twitter of "Little Yellow" by Blixa Bargeld is complimented by the splendid ethereal hum and quake of Es' contribution which follows.

SunnO))) provide "BP/Simple," an evolving 10 minute piece balancing beauty and restraint that whizzes by like an actual two minute 30 second jukebox hit. Minit also opt for less as more. In places, there are echoes of the work of Die Trip Computer Die and Tarwater, both of whom would have been interesting contributors. Elsewhere, on "Karma-Cola," Adrian Sherwood + Doug Wimbush perhaps predictably take the sound to bass depths which no one else approaches, while Thomas Fehlmann focuses on layering vocals pretty much unadorned.

Jukebox Buddha is a bright yet unflashy record worth returning to, and nicely rounded off by Sun City Girls' piece -  the closest approximation of an Aboriginal gamelan mutation that I can recall. Unfortunately, now I believe the only way to cleanse myself of the impure desire to get eight of the original machines, each one a different color, turn them on, run a hot bath...is... to consumate that desire.