An Interactive Box From Beijing Provides Loops to Make Fetishists Swoon


A custom-made, accidentally hip re-envisioning of the loop players found in Buddhist temples, the Buddha Machine has caused a serene stir among the oblique strategists who frequent Mutek shindigs and the Forced Exposure mail-order catalog. Conceived by confrontationally tranquil Beijing noise-ambient duo FM3, the machine is essentially nine loops—from a teensy two seconds to an epic 45—that cycle from a tinny speaker housed in a box the approximate size, shape, and sheen of a 60-gig iPod (although assuming this is an “answer to the iPod” is misguided since, as FM3’s Christiaan Virant insists, iPods haven’t reached critical mass in China yet). Europeans swoon over the whimsical concept and the minimalist design, Japan saw it as a cheap tchotchke fashioned from low-quality Chinese plastic (until the Wire feature), and American record-collector geekarati love its fetish-worthy packaging—it’s everything Luddite hoarders value (a prole-intimidating $23 list price, the familiarity of something you can hold and scrutinize) combined with the same downloading-generation interactivity that gives ’em night terrors (listener tailor the playlist, duration, and volume to their own preferences). Its adorable, lowest-fi eight-bit gracefulness is the type of anachronism needed to crash the iTunes of mouthy download-centric McLuhanites, or at least give aging record nerds the warm fuzzies until the batteries run out.

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