The Buddha Machine is an engine for background sounds. Created by the China-based duo FM3, the Machine is a tidy little box of sound loops. There are two versions of the Buddha Machine (thus far). Each contains nine brief loops, ranging from beat-less reveries to subtly pulsing tones. Two Buddha Machines are more than twice as useful as one, because the layering of Buddha Machine sounds — the effect, that is, of playing them simultaneously, whether with the same or different loops — creates the effect of a new, more complex sound.
There is a Buddha Machine Effect, in that the longer you listen to a Buddha Machine loop, the less generic, the less plain, that loop comes to appear. Perhaps the second Buddha Machine was arguably necessary, because by the time it was released, the first Buddha Machine had, to its most frequent users (the word “user” seems more appropriate than does “listeners”), become familiar, recognizable.
The longer you employ a Buddha Machine, the more you become attuned to its loops — not only in your own practice of listening, but as the Buddha Machine is employed by other musicians. It’s proven to be a useful sound source for music-makers, and a search for “Buddha Machine” on many music forums yields homebrew experimenters. Take, for example Sinehead, a German who makes his public home at the sound-sharing site soundcloud.com/sinehead. His “FM3 buddha machine countryside” is a singular, linear experiment in pastoral collage. One of the beautiful things about soundcloud.com, in contrast with, say, myspace.com, is that each track (see below for an example) is given its own waveform image.
And thus, even before you venture into Sinehead’s Buddha experiment, you understand its structure: there’s a slow build, and then two separate lengthy sections, each with its own unique contours. In this case, the slow build is a rising tide of loops, with a single gentle thud suggesting imminent momentum. That first lengthy section brings a click track and more regular thud that organizes but doesn’t overpower the roiling loops. And the second lengthy section doubles the beat’s speed.