In 2008, a mysterious French dark ambient artist named Manuel M materialized out of nowhere and released Endurance. It was a cold, almost lifeless record that chronicled an early 1900s expedition made by Ernest Shackleton. It was gorgeous but got lost in a sea of new school ambient that gets drowned out by the more immediate. Manuel M went back into hiding, or became a cloud, or was a pseudonym for Richard James. Seven years later, Irezumi re-emerges to release a record about death.
Irezumi is the painful Japanese art of tattooing by hand. The person getting inked was referred to as a “victim”; in fact, it began as a punishment in 720 AD in Japan. Today, to get Irezumi, which literally means ‘insert ink’, you get on the internet and find someone who knows an artist. (Most are underground and finding their contact information can be difficult.) The process can take years and thousands of dollars.
I can totally see some awesome Asian video game designer hearing this record and making a dark game to go along with it. In the game, you would wander through a graveyard, masking the sound of your breath and footsteps as you peer around, looking for anything living to join your crew. Okay, so that sounds like a terrible video game, but I am sure someone would play it (add in a bunch of pay to play crap and it would be fine.)
The hopelessness on ‘Drown’ is reminiscent of Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill 2 soundtrack. As the record floats on through sinuous hallways and dark passageways, you genuinely wonder: A. If you are alive and B. If that matters. The record hits all the right notes in ambient history. The opening of ‘Like tears in Rain’ echoes Brian Eno. After all, we’re always one step behind him, right? Stars of the Lid moments abound and I hear some White Arcades sounds as well. Ambient fans will feel right at home here.
The record reaches its emotional peak at the final track—“Goodbye Brother’. Manuel dedicated this record to his brother (1972-2015), and while saying goodbye is always awful, saying goodbye to someone in their 30s is utter torturous. The song paces along through 15 minutes of post-rock perfection, never reaching a crescendo but never turning back as beautiful synth harps and strong strings steadily pull you down a river. Near the 6 minute mark, the instrumentation pauses and a beautiful lullaby plays. It slows to a funeral pace and then disappears. The loss is real. A few minutes later, the music reemerges, presumably from the other side, as beautiful as ever. As Thirty proves, composing art for a relationship is one of the only tools we have to make love last forever.