That Infernal Machine
Enlightenment arrives from multiple quarters about the mysterious device Hurby Luv Bug mentioned to me
It's not "poublaison" or "publason" but this baby:
The Publison Infernal Machine, made by a French outboard gear manufacturer, and for some years the connoisseur-preferred, state-of-the-art sampler/effects unit
Stuart Argabright of Ike Yard/Dominatrix legend says "Publison made early sampling delays, you could get these great looping effects"
Christopher Halcrow says "Their best known effects unit was the Infernal Machine which if I remember correctly did pitch shifting and some other stuff a la Eventide harmonizers"
Matthew McKinnon dug up a good quote from here on its particular attributes: "The Publison Infernal Machine 90 is an amazing digital processing unit that has sampling, time stretching, reverberating, phasing, and delay effects.... offers 30 seconds of stereo sampling [this at a time when sample-time of 10 seconds was the norm] rich and endless reverb options and has a distinctive character all its own."
Chemical Brother Tom Rowland notes "it was a favorite machine of Ivan 'Doc' Rodriguez who worked on Boogie Down Productions, Grandmaster Flash, Spoonie G, T-LaRock, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, LL Cool J and others" [including Eric B & Rakim's Paid In Full and records by EPMD].But he says they were used widely beyond hip hop (Prince was apparently a fan)despite being "notoriously unreliable and tricky to fix."