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Eno buys eight  Chand-@aol.com
 Mar 16, 2006 01:13 PST 

A simple plastic box which promises instant karma and plays nine sequences
of electronic
notes on an endless loop has become the must-have accessory.

Called the Buddha Machine, the box was invented by a Beijing-based duo of
Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian, who modelled it on a popular Chinese
device which
intones Buddhist prayers.

Thumbing its nose at the iPod generation and containing a tiny figurine of
Buddha and a
microchip, more than 10,000 have been sold in the US, after the New York
described it as "beautifully useless".

In the UK, eager buyers have snapped up 2,000 of the machines in a range of
colours, with
the only Scottish stockist selling out in days.

Customers include Brian Eno, the music industry legend, who is reported to
have bought
eight machines, and Duglas Stewart, the lead singer of Glasgow cult band BMX

Stephen McRobbie, co-owner of the Monorail music store in central Glasgow,
said: "There
is a real buzz about them since they started to appear on websites. We
sourced 25 and
they went like hot cakes.

"Musically they are very interesting, and I know people who have been put in
a trance by
them. The Buddha Machine is certainly not a piece of trash - it's real

"We have people collecting different colours because they really like them."
Virant and Zhang Jian are part of an experimental China-based pop group
called FM3,
which has cult status in America and the Far East. They are renowned for
subduing large,
live crowds into absolute silence.

To counter the current craze for downloading music from the internet, they
decided to
invent a static box containing the Buddha and the microchip, on which nine
sequences of
electronically produced notes are recorded.

A sequence repeats constantly in the listener's ear until the user switches
to the next in
line. Although most have definable patterns, with up to 42 notes, some are
only two notes
long. Respectability arrived last November when the '15 Buddha Machine was
reviewed in
the influential New York Times.

"Who says a boxed set has to include CDs?" the reviewer asked. "The 'Buddha
Machine' is,
literally, a small plastic box with a built-in speaker, a headphone jack and
a little switch
you use to toggle between nine different and quite lovely ambient electronic
It is a weird, mesmerising, beautifully useless thing."

US distributor Firstexposure.com's spokesman Eric Benoit said: "The Buddha
became a big deal at Mutek music festival last year when lots of serious
musicians started
to buy them. When bloggers started talking about them they got even hotter."

Benoit said it took him some time to be convinced of their merits. "It's
hard to say what
their appeal is, because when you first see the machine you don't think it's
impressive. The loops don't come out with hi-fi sound but they are
incredibly soothing."

Manchester-based Baked Goods have now started importing them into the UK.
Simon Tomkinson said he was selling them even before they arrived. "I was
sent an early
version by a friend last year. I thought they were cool, but I never thought
we would end
up selling thousands," he said. "Every time I get them in, I sell out the
same afternoon. We
took 280 orders in one day.

"The phenomenal thing is that people are buying half a dozen each because
they come in
different colours. I think people like them because they are lo-fi and a
humorous take on
the iPod."

Mike Schiller, who reviewed the machine for the online culture magazine
Popmatters, says
it is the "cheapest pre-loaded iPod you'll ever be able to buy. It even
comes in a number of
different colours, for the fashion-conscious experimental music aficionado.
Mine's a very
stylish magenta.

"Sure, the Buddha Machine is more than a little bit novelty. That's part of
its charm. You
can have a little pink or red or black box that plays music. You can display
it openly.
People will ask about it. It's an icebreaker.

"But what's truly special about it is what FM3 has done with a tiny bit of
recording space
on a little speaker. It's mesmerising. It's portable relaxation."

BMX Bandits' Duglas Stewart took his on tour. "Everyone else had their iPods
and I had my
Buddha Machine," he said. "Because iPods are everywhere, you could see them
thinking: I
want one of those.

"I have now bought one for a friend in Japan and have two more on order."

Stewart said the machines were originally marketed as a meditation tool,
"but I just see it
as a beautiful object that plays music".

"It reminds you of the transistor radios that you used to hide under the
sheets and listen
to Radio Luxembourg on when you were a kid."

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