Rihards Bražinskis & Raitis Upens – Aldaris

Here is the first of two new submissions from the phonography focused label Unfathomless. Founded and run by the tireless Daniel Crokaert, Unfathomless challenges sound artists to create work based around a physical space. As Crokaert puts it, the work should evoke the spirit of a specific place, “crowded with memories, its auras and resonances and our intimate interaction with it…” As of now, Unfathomless seems to be taking precedence over its sister label, Mystery Sea (also run by Crokaert), likely because it seems to allow for a more diverse output, expanding on the dark ocean drones that populate the Mystery Sea releases.

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For the better part of last year I spent my time working as a bartender for a brewery in Vancouver’s “Yeast Van” brewery district. Although most of my time there was dedicated to front of house, I got to know the basics of the beer making process as well. As someone with more than a fleeting interest in field recording and sound, I was frequently enamoured by the strange and enriching sounds that came from the process of brewing beer. Whether it was the bubbling and churning from the boil, the vacuous pings from the inside of empty tanks and kegs, or the hissing drones from Carbon dioxide canisters, there was a lot of intriguing sound to get lost in.

Rihards Bražinskis and Raitis Upens take this idea and run with it. On Aldaris, the two captured recordings from a 150 year old brewery in Riga, Latvia, and wove them into a 36 minute sound piece. According to the Unfathomless site, the duo were given freedom to interact with the 80-year-old beer kettles, which, no doubt allowed for a substantially richer final product. From the opening seconds it sounds like the two making use of these kettles, as slowly, bass-heavy creaks and rumbles fill out a pleasant low-end. From here the sound only intensifies, reaching a small earthquake-like magnitude by the 7 minute mark.

In my experience with field recording work, the most potent albums abide by, more or less, one of two artistic approaches. Either a work is steadfast in its use of explicitly unaltered, unprocessed field recordings, or, moderate liberties are taken in editing and processing as a way to accent a given work. On the other hand, albums of this type that heavily obscure the source of their sounds really don’t do it for me.

Bražinskis and Upens avoid the pitfalls of heavy-handedness. Their editing approach seems to respect that their audience has the patience to hear how Aldaris subtly shifts over its duration. The transitions here are especially choice, namely the punctuated blasts of soft noise that guide the piece into its second movement (starting at 7:59). The album’s mid-section, with its skittering, almost free-jazz like tactility and haunting, fever-pitched drones, evokes all the feeling of being squarely within an ancient ruin. Or, in the case of Aldaris, speaks to a great industry that has risen and fallen, and a land that is forever at the mercy of time’s reclamation.

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