The world’s fascination with the cult music geek fetish object, the Buddha Machine by FM3, hasn’t quite gone away yet. The cheaply produced, but irresistibly quaint electronic music box is the source of the material used in the new album from Robert Henke (AKA Monolake), Layering Buddha.
The concept perhaps seems a bit like Henke is bandwagon hopping. I have never bought any of Henke’s music until now. But maybe that’s just because I’m fickle. But the Buddha Machine is a genuinely interesting object, so I was bound to take notice of this exploration of the music locked inside it.
While the music emanating from the Buddha Machine itself cannot be altered, Henke has used high-quality equipment to record its output and deliver some radical reinterpretations. Essentially we have an hour-long remix of the Buddha Machine. It’s not bad to get an hour of music out of just a nine short loops, but Henke has done it.
Henke has stuck with the main principle of the Buddha Machine’s music though. In the best ambient tradition, this music doesn’t really go anywhere quickly. The tracks progress as they go along for sure, unlike the Buddha Machine which repeats the same section of music every dozen seconds or so.
In the liner notes Henke writes:
The pieces as they live within my computer are set up as continuously permutating structures and theoretically could go on forever, just as the loops do within the buddha machines.
I made quite long renderings of these permutations and later decided which excerpt of each structure to put on this CD. Therefore, the tracks are not closed works, but views onto a perpetual machinery.
So the basic idea is the same as the Buddha Machine, but it’s delivered on the conventional, linear CD format.
As for the music itself, it mostly sounds like your standard dark ambient fare. Some of it is downright creepy, at points reminding me of the darkest moments of legendary IDM spook-fest Geogaddi. If you woke up in the middle of the night and started playing Layering Buddha you would probably get a bit paranoid.
A lot of the music here is completely unrecognisable from the Buddha Machine itself, although a few tracks provide repeat glimpses of familiar elements. It’s interesting to see such radically different music being made from the sounds made by that innocent little plastic box.