It’s something of a cliché when describing ambient and experimental music, but more than most works in these genres Fabio Perletta’s “Ichinen” feels more like an immersive environment rather than a linear narrative, despite the fact that the piece is in some ways a transcription of a journey the artist took to Japan in 2015. Things are rather than happen, their coming and going merely a shift of attention towards and away from sounds that have always and will always sound thus. I suppose this relates in some way to the album’s title, which refers to the “absolute present” held as the shortest possible unit of time in Suzuki Daisetsu Teitar?’s Zen Buddhism, the one (ichi) thought (nen) of enlightenment (Satori).
Source audio was recorded in various locations — temples, restaurants, markets — and then edited and transformed digitally, losing familiarity and context but gaining specificity and presentness. I’m struggling even to name many of these sounds: the closest approximations might be ‘thuds’, ‘chinks’, ‘scrapes’, ‘taps’, ‘clinks’, and ‘thumps’, some wooden-sounding, some metallic, others trickling like water or gusting like air. The ways in which the sounds reverberate give some clues as to the kind of space in which they are sounding, but different spaces frequently seem to be superimposed, contrasting indoors and outdoors, near and far in ambiguous and believable ways. Real moments are always superpositions of interior and exterior, hope and memory, and “Ichinen” mirrors these complex composites convincingly.
Very occasionally, tonal sounds will be introduced into the mix, either recorded in situ or added in the studio. In part 3, there’s what sounds like air being blown over the mouths of different glass or ceramic vessels to get different pitches. “Ichinen” ends with a warm, ambient chord that shifts and glimmers for a long time, but this overtly composed tonal element doesn’t feel like a resolving conclusion or finale; rather, it sounds as if it had always been there, extending in both directions beyond this single moment in which our attention happens to alight on it. Although “Ichinen” bears many similarities to its predecessor “Genkai”, a collaboration with the great sound designer Haruo Okada, in many ways the newer work strikes me as more complex, expansive, and open-ended — a moment that remains present long after the final chord has died away.