Could we really have been expecting them to top the Buddha Machine?
The viral success of last year's inventive Buddha Machine doohickey, which allowed listeners to experience potentially unlimited ambience based on loops that amounted to maybe three minutes of original source material, has made Chinese ambient duo FM3 something like a household name in the experimental music community. As such, there was some discernable excitement in that community over what FM3 could possibly do to follow up the release of the device. Now, we know, and the answer is... well, could we really have been expecting them to top the Buddha Machine? Hou Guan Yin, a collaboration with Dou Wei, is a fine 36 minutes of ambience, something that mostly floats by effortlessly, allowing the listener to concentrate on other things while maintaining a vague sense of pleasure at his or her choice of background music. Where Hou Guan Yin is particularly solid is in the tracks with beats, some of which are surprisingly complex, if subtly executed. Also notable is the fourth track (titled in Chinese, or I'd give you a name), which barely exists but for a distant, very high-pitched ringing in the ears. It's interesting and quite pleasing, if somewhat ordinary (it's only a CD, after all), making it the perfect comedown from the novelty of the Buddha Machine. Anyone into not-all-that-difficult ambient music will find plenty to like in Hou Guan Yin.