INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Mojo FEBRUARY 2009 - by Andrew Male
BOX OF DELIGHTS
A 'toy' that's an ambient LP, instrument, and meditation device?
It looks like a '70s transistor radio. Turn it on, however, and The Buddha Machine reveals itself as something more magical. Devised by Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian of Beijing-based ambient duo FM3, it has, since 2005, wowed the likes of Daft Punkt, Gorillaz and nearly sixty-thousand purchasers (Brian Eno's got eight!). Essentially a plastic speaker that plays crackly ambient loops and drones composed by the band, it was inspired by a trip to a south Chinese Buddhist temple ten years ago.
"There was this old tape-loop machine used to play chants to the Buddha," explains Virant. "For years we talked about how cool it would be to release an FM3 album 'inside that little box'. Then, in 2004, we did."
Using the same Chinese factory that made the original chanting box, they first made five hundred. Pre-sales for Version 2.0 are ten-thousand, with interest also coming from the yoga and meditation fields. "Fans were using it as an instrument, [plugging] it into a mixer or rewiring it," says Virant. "This inspired us to create the second edition, with nine new loops and a pitch-control. You can pitch it to match your guitar, your voice. Or play it like an instrument, changing the notes as they sound out."