Fm3 make meditative electronic micro-soundscapes with computers and traditional Chinese instruments that open up poetic spaces. They are also the folks behind the Buddha Machine, the plastic loop player that has become a phenomenon. The prolific Beijing duo (Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian) are central to the rapidly expanding Chinese experimental electronic music community that they helped initiate.
American Virant left his native Nebraska to live in China almost two decades ago before settling in Beijing 1995. After being active in the Chinese underground punk scene for over ten years, Virant started Fm3 in 1999 with the aim of making live electronic music - acid-house style tracks with a guitar, based around the computer.
Virant invited musicians from underground rock and punk circles to join, including Zhang Jian, the most respected keyboardist and computer musician in the scene. Originally a trio, one of members of Fm3’s line-up became a solo artist and is now one of the top dj/laptop performers in China.
Zhang Jian also moved to Beijing in 95, from southern China. He has since appeared on countless underground releases and was a member of many seminal Chinese rock acts, working with Zhang Chu, Ziyue and Dou Wei, among others. He is also one of Beijing's most sought after film and television composers, working with a diverse range of artists from underground filmmaker Cui Zi'en to leading stage producer Lin Zhaohua. He has been very active in theater composition doing a lot of classical scoring, which lends Chinese folk and classical influences to the Fm3 sound.
The first gigs were minimal techno. Early Fm3 played the back rooms of clubs, (in China the dominant club music is very fast trance or very, very fast techno) Fm3 played slower, stripped-down music and, around 2001, left out the beats entirely to become an ambient band, and began performing with prepared Chinese folk instruments plus two laptops playing drones, a sound which is captured well on both the Ambience Sinica
(Dreamland Recordings 2003), and the Mort Aux Vaches CD
In 2005 Fm3 produced their most successful release - the Buddha Machine
. Based on cheap, mass–produced chant players used in Buddhist temples, the Buddha machine is a small, self contained plastic box that plays lo-fi Fm3 loops (from two seconds to an epic 45) from a tinny speaker. The little boxes were released on Staalplaat, and are manufactured in a factory in China that produces the original chant machines in the millions. To date there have been two spin off albums, Henke’s Layering Buddha
(Imbalance Computer Music, Oct 2006) and Jukebox Buddha
(Staubgold, 2006). Contributors include Sun City Girls, Sunn 0))), Fehlmann, Jan Jelinek
with Andrew Pekler
and Hanno Leichtmann, Einstürzende Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld, Monolake's
Robert Henke, Alog, and Mapstation
Fm3 have appeared at media and art festivals worldwide, including Maerz Musik (Berlin), Impakt (Utrecht), Dissonanze (Rome), Marke B (Berlin), Nuit Blanche (Paris), Arborescence (Marseille), Sprawl (London), Out the Window (Tokyo) and Mutek (Montreal), and in 2004, played three shows at the Louvre in Paris.
FM3's sound installations have been featured at the 2004 Shanghai Biennale as well as the Beijing-Tokyo Art Project, the Dashazi International Art Festival and the Kulturhallen Dampfzentrale in the Swiss capital of Bern. From April-June 2005 Virant was artist-in-residence at the PROGR Zentrum Für Kulturproduktion in Bern. They've recently been invited to create the "sound environment" for one of the Beijing Olympic parks.
As well as Staalplaat, they have also released music on Bip-Hop records in France, Mutek_Rec in Canada, Mousike records in Italy, Nascente records in the UK, Leerraum records in Switzerland, and Sublime Frequencies in the US where Virant was the curator/compiler of the Radio Pyongyang release, part of a fascinating series that also includes Tibetan field recordings.
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