Jukebox Buddha

One of the early-21st century's musical fetish items in the West was actually a fairly popular device in China for some years beforehand -- the Buddha Machine, a small speaker used for broadcasting snippets from Buddhist sutras on constant loops. After a number of them were reprogrammed by FM3 with their own sonics and fell into the hands of folks like Brian Eno, new ideas came to the fore -- thus Jukebox Buddha, featuring 15 acts using the modified device to create their own compositions. Less dedicated to the idea of employing the revamped Buddha Machine as an instrument than as a vehicle for reinterpreting and murkily looping musical elements, Jukebox Buddha is suffused with echo and fuzzy warmth, applying the intentionally minimal, basic sound of the device to each band's general aesthetic. Starting with Wang Fan's contrast of human voice with drones, "Xuanzhuan de Tuolounidi," the album flows like shadows over a concrete-covered urban vacant lot during a slow sunset, with the occasional lighter moments far outweighed by the darker ones. The aggressive collage of whines, found-sound recording, and electronic screeches on Aki Onda's "The Buddha in New York" could soundtrack whatever follows in the wake of Blade Runner and The Matrix, while the deep, echoing roll of Thomas Fehlmann's seemingly bottomless "Liquid Buddha" and Sunn 0)))'s "BP//Simple" show what depths can be further conjured out of the device. Gudrun Gut's slow beatfest "Rendering Buddha" and Jan Jelinek's collaborative effort with two others on the hilarious "BuddhaMachineCommercial" show two completely different ways to use the invention. Blixa Bargeld, intriguingly, does one of the gentlest efforts, "Little Yellow," consisting of little more than a minute's worth of bird calls and chirps, while Mapstation's own "Watching Paik's Video Buddha" is another brief slice of calm bliss. ~ Ned Raggett

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