Thirty comes with a dedication to Irezumi's late brother (1972-2015), and without wanting to fixate too much on the detail it does perhaps account for the album's oft-hymnal tone. It's an exceptionally lovely collection of ambient music, so much so that one could imagine its third track, “Falling” playing at a low volume inside the Sistine Chapel to strengthen the mood as visitors gaze upon its magnificent imagery. Issued in a physical edition of 100, the album's release coincides with the thirtieth birthday of its Paris-based creator, Manuel Mesdag, who initiated the Irezumi project in 2008 with the release of Endurance, an album based on Ernest Shackleton's Antarctica expedition of 1914-17.
In keeping with the intensely personal and intimate nature of the project, Thirty's nine settings (ten on the physical release) are an especially heartfelt bunch. Track titles such as “Hope,” “Drowning,” and “Dream Awake” explicitly reference the tumultuous emotional terrain Mesdag traversed during the album's production, and the positioning of “Goodbye Brother” at the recording's close suggests a wishful attempt at closure and resolution on Mesdag's part. One presumes that the creative undertaking in this case proved cathartic to some helpful degree.
In keeping with its title, “Hope” exudes a carefully calibrated sense of uplift and fragile belief in a possible future of resilience and recovery. During this six-minute scene-setter, Mesdag's music seems meditative, peaceful even, when minimal piano notes intone softly against a sparkling ambient backdrop. Even more ethereal is “Falling” in featuring the soft wail of angelic choirs, the kind of music one imagines might be permanently resounding in the empyrean. Though that particular track feels heavily indebted to Arvo Part, the album otherwise, from the introverted “Hidden” to the softly luminescent “Lights,” aligns itself more generally to the ambient genre.
“Drowning” and “Like Tears in Rain” are naturally submersive and mournful, respectively, but that the tone of certain tracks can be so easily predicted doesn't make Thirty any less effective as an emotionally rich sound portrait. And as much as its title suggests sadness, “Goodbye Brother” turns out to be less despairing than determined, its insistent flow honouring the memory of the departed whilst still intimating recovery. The hard-won message would appear to be, quite rightly, that life, no matter how dire the circumstances, does eventually go on.