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V/A - Jukebox Buddha

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Artist: V/A

Album: Jukebox Buddha

Label: Staubgold

Review date: Dec. 6, 2006

The Buddha Machine, released last year by Amsterdam’s Staalplaat label, is a plain rectangular box equipped with an integrated speaker, DC input, headphone output, and nine ambient loops. The loops, composed by Beijing-based electronic duo FM3 (Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian) range from five to 40 seconds, from hazy melodies to flickering clusters of tones - in other words, Eno in your pocket. By nature of environment and ambience, perception of the sounds changes over time, guarantees a unique listening experience from the office to the forest.

The Jukebox permutation - or reincarnation - is a decidedly mixed bag, a number of compositions drawing from the Machine’s loops but bearing few other similarities. Imagine 15 architects given bricks from the same stock pile and asked to derive a building from the essence of that form. Wang Fan uses the bricks for a zen garden, Thomas Fehlmann for a resonant cavern, Sun City Girls for a thatch-roof bar on the coast of the Yellow River (the bricks are in the bar). Other contributors include Einsturzende Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld, Finnish folk-drone acolyte Es, Jans Jelinek and Alog.

While the Sun City Girls drone is a revelatory affair, a distillation of the group’s otherworldly jeers and pantomimes into a placid stream of sound, other offerings stick with tired ethno-collage and shallow, if blissful, reconfigurations of the source material. Sunn 0)))’s “BP/Simple” is perhaps the most successful attempt at prolonging and bastardizing the Machine’s drones, turning meditation on its head and blasting the bliss out with tremulous waves of bass. Here, as in the Machine, the point is not just the drone but everything around and beneath it.

By Alexander Provan

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