This post has been updated. See below for details.
The Prism isn't actually shaped like a prism but, rather, is a simple, brushed-metal cube the size of a child's wooden block. Set it on a pedestal in an art gallery, and its simple symmetry suggests a sculpture rather than what it is: a music delivery system.
The device, created by New York City-based electronic music producer Nicolas Jaar and collaborator Noah Kraft and released through the pair's Clown & Sunset production company, is a standalone little chunk of beauty that houses within it a release called "Don't Break My Love," 12 tracks by Jaar and his affiliates and collaborators, including Nikita Quasim, Acid Pauli and Will Epstein. They make ethereal, beat-heavy music that straddles between passive ambient tones and active post-techno rhythmic experiments (one featuring gorgeous tenor saxophone).
On the surface, the creation of yet another self-contained music listening device seems absurd. Jaar's intention isn't to advance technology, though, but to craft something elegantly utilitarian from it. The prism features four unmarked buttons (volume up and down, power and play), two headphone jacks (for couple listening) and a pinhole-sized white power light that flashes when it's charging (via USB).
Handed to a stranger unawares, it'd be hard to determine exactly what the thing is, which makes plugging in earbuds, figuring out the buttons and finally hearing the music something of a magical experience.
Note: The original version of this post misspelled the names of the two who developed the Prism. They are Nicolas Jaar and Noah Kraft. We have corrected them above.
Photo: The new Nicolas Jaar album comes on a Prism, a little silver box that two people can listen to and which holds the album. It is its own self contained player. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times