A recent birthday has left me inundated with splendid gifts. Things I do not deserve. The finest of these could well be the FM3 Buddha Machine.
Itâ€™s a pocket-sized ambient loop player. The electric blue packaging is decorated in inane stylised lilies, and inside are two batteries and a walkman-sized box with a tiny (and tinny) built-in speaker. The Buddha Machine is activated via a roller-volume mechanism, which sets one of the nine ambient loops playing (five dark and evocative, three light and enchanting, one irritating). The loops can be cycled by flipping the switch on one side back and forth. Each loop will play forever, or until the batteries fail. Itâ€™s best listened to in a quiet room through the built-in speaker, since the build quality means that the headphone jack comes with a nasty hiss.
Q: Where did the idea for the Buddha Machine come from?
A: We took the inspiration from a similar device used in Buddhist temples. The device is used to play constant chants to the Buddha and some say it was developed because of the shortage of monks in modern times. I picked up my first one more than 10 years ago and it was a permanent fixture in my bathroom. For years, Zhang and I mused about how cool it would be to make an FM3 release “inside that little box” and then in 2004 we got serious and really did it.
Myself and a close ally tried to buy some Buddha Machines in a store in London recently but Brian Eno had bought their entire stock. We tried to find contact details to complain about the greedy man, but failed.