听 ting - to hear; 说 shuo - to say. Listen before speaking. Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian of FM3 have just released an initial stream from their forthcoming album, Ting Shuo. In Beijing, FM3 is a legacy band: they formed there in 1999, gigging two to three times a week at a time when most of their current fans were in grade school. They achieved much of their success after the 2005 release of the first Buddha Machine, but the enduring popularity of the anti-gadget has also eclipsed FM3 as a band. Abroad, many don’t even know they are a band. At home, their relationship to fans is largely “Ting shuo guo”: heard of but never heard.
Ting Shuo is FM3’s first album in ten years, a lush, physical reminder of the operators outside the box. The title track brings Virant’s signature lilting synth pulse in and out among the earth-bound tones of Zhang Jian’s cello, a vintage Roland synth, and a studio Steinway Grand. “Ting Shuo” is a seven-plus-minute inward traverse that’s evocative without being obviously emotive. It nails the duo’s signature vibe: simultaneously contemporary and classical, traditional and novel, compelling but cool and removed. FM3’s longer compositions, like their n-second Buddha Machine fractals, are nuanced, subtle, hard to talk about except organically and after repeat listens. 听 > 说.
The physical edition of Ting Shuo — with packaging manufactured in FM3’s own Beijing printing factory — will drop in China in early November, and have a limited international release in December. Pre-orders are open now on FM3’s Bandcamp. FM3 will also be releasing the decade-edition, ivory/ebony Buddha Machine 5 before year’s end. Way cheaper than an iPhone 6, and no talking involved.