Lcoma & Valiska
Digital Architecture






Digital Architecture is a two-song, four-track Drone EP by Leeds-based Liam Coleman aka Lcoma or L_coma respectively, and Krzysztof Sujata from Calgary, Canada, better known under his moniker Valiska. It was released on Petroglyph Music in late January 2013, is available for free and can be downloaded at the label website. Cross-border or even transatlantic file-swapping of stems, samples and loops is more en vogue than ever, with many artists working together without ever meeting in person. I admit it is incredibly banal to write something like this in 2013, but while the particular concept of Digital Architecture turns out to be good on paper, it is enormously better in its aural state, leading to the impression that the musicians must have worked together in the same room, even though they created the respective tracks on their own: both Coleman and Sujata use photographs and drawings from architecturally interesting locations or buildings and utilize them as a base for the two tracks that are presented in a rotatory way, with Lcoma's Liverbird I and II being the first and third track, and Valiska's Havana I and II placed at two and four. The specific origin of the their inspiration is nowhere mentioned in the liner notes, so I had to investigate – read: pester the gentlemen via Twitter – in order to uncover the truth. Coleman draws his inspiration from the two so-called Liver Bird sculptures which are placed at the top of architect Walter Aubrey Thomas' Royal Liver Building in Liverpool, making the tracks' Roman numerals all the more poignant, while Sujata is inspired by the Havana sketches of the recently deceased architect Lebbeus Woods. These Walls Of Change can be further inspected on Woods' blog. There is a reason I am stoked about Digital Architecture, and it all started with a – major to me – revelation by Valiska on Twitter. Afterwards, I was then hooked big time by Lcoma's contribution to the EP, but more about this below. Let me just state that this work is absolutely worth anyone's while who is the slightest bit fond of Drone music with interspersed guitars and a few Glitch artifacts. Even though the two versions of each track are divided, I will review them in a consecutive, song-focused order.


Liverbird I opens the digital release, and if you are a fan of mellow machine-like sounds, Liam Coleman caters to your specific taste, for he manages to let euphony and monotony coalesce in the hazy metropolis that is Liverpool. The first Liverbird track is also one of the Drone tracks with a clear prelude: the crunchy clicks at the point of origin are of a dualistic nature, they encapsulate both a hazardous Geiger counter-evoking nature and an aqueous state of benignment. Coupled with an iridescent polar light stream and duskier stokehold fragments, these clicks are then replaced by New Age-oid wind chimes which gyrate around ethereal gales. The aura is intense, but balmy. Bit-crushed klaxon square lead pads and field recordings of rivulets refine the scenery further. Despite the ongoing wind gusts, omnipresent liquid particles and glistening sparkles, there is literally one source of thermal heat in place that meanders like an aorta through the arrangement, namely the aforementioned whitewashed machine drones that remind of boiler rooms and lack any traces of acidity or attack rate. They are in fact mollifying, entrancing and shift their pitch-related shape ever so slightly. Liverbird I is a blast. It probably does not feature all too many layers, but the thickness of its drones bolsters the construction and results in a completely wadded listening experience without any fissures or cracks.


The second incarnation, Liverbird II, draws from the exact same pool of layers and is a genuine continuation of the first mix. It is in fact highly similar, with the same wind chimes, radiator creeks and airflows happily reunited, but mind you, Lcoma changes a few nuances here and there, be it the surprisingly acroamatic-gelid dripstone cave phase that makes up the first third of the track, the revved up roughness of the mildly distorted pink noise placenta, or the vinyl crackle-accentuated final phase complete with oscillating wind bubbles and abyssal bass drones. While Liverbird I and II are torn apart, the belong together in real life and on the EP. It is here that architectural particularities of the real world are perfectly transformed into an aural concept. Coleman's offerings feel eminently airy, but not just due to the allusion of birds, but their concrete (!) placement.


Let us move to Havana: Krzysztof Sujata's two-part excursion is a proper Drone track, but takes a decidedly different route than Liam Coleman's infusion. Mark my words when I state the gradual change of the color palette. I first encountered the two Havanas via SoundCloud, and I immediately had the images of sepia-tinged, creme-tinted and beige-colored structures in mind. When I confronted Valiska with my impressions via Twitter, he started to spill the beans and revealed Lebbeus Woods' architectural sketches as the influence for both versions of the track. And while I did not have clear cut images in front of my inner eye – after all, I am no synesthete –, the detailed drawings of the Havana-based architecture immediately clicked with me. This was one moment of revelation. Now back to Havana itself: Havana I kicks off in medias res which is a nice change in terms of the ever-maintained fade-in formula. The feeling is as intense as in Lcoma's contributions, but here the droning synths (or guitars, I'm easily fooled) are awash with sunlight, an impression that is further nurtured by the baked-in screeching Oriental tone sequences. Insectoid clicks and flaring Thomas Fehlmann-like pulsations fill the whole room. Despite the sunny luminescence, the track is curiously dusky, danger-evoking and foreign. The incessant entanglement of overdriven static noise phases with screeching train brakes and howling Post Rock guitarscapes is definitely luring and alienating at once. It is only in the last third that a mellifluous – and incredibly fitting – Latin guitar melody is injected which forms a stark contrast to the adamant flurry. Havana I ends as abruptly as it began, unleashing faux-birds and warbled shawm-like strings.


While the oxymoronically vivacious gloominess of Havana I could well be interpreted as an accident due to the short bursts of enigmatic melody slivers, Havana II makes its shady state clear right from the get-go. Lcoma's two tunes are intertwined with – and dependent on – each other, and so it comes as no surprise that Havana II is undoubtedly related to its first incarnation. The amounts of edginess and ardency, however, increase glaringly: the ubiquitous static noise vesicles gurgle spitefully, the Middle Eastern melodies are arcane and sizzling-hot, but all these characteristic traits are outshone by a deeply angst-inducing vault-like whang whose large echo augments the panoramic wideness of the beige architecture. After approximately one minute, the crackling guitar melody is fully in place, this time reciprocating between a Sicilian murkiness and euphoric timbres. The elysian setup increases during the progression of the song, and what was once sinister and possibly malevolent is now turned into a well-saturated atmosphere of majestic blitheness. Only the last 20 seconds return to a more ferocious state as the warmth of the muted guitars is missing and a diffuse male voice is making an announcement in-between a mélange of clicks, pops and piles of tape hiss. Havana II has become full circle and returns to its twilight guise.


Digital Architecture is a superb EP, not necessarily because of the two skillful presentations of Drone masterminds Liam Coleman and Krzysztof Sujata in general or the convincing concept of architectural prowess as a blueprint for the stems in particular; no, this artifact works due to the dichotomous and diametrically opposite timbres and hues that are deeply embedded in each state of the presented material. Lcoma's Liverbird is torn between icy windscapes, wraithlike synth washes, as well as – gasp! – seemingly old-fashioned chime sparks and glittering flecks. These particular ingredients are nonetheless compatible with each other, so the actual twist comprises of the radiator-caused heat wave which wafts through and above the cubic architecture, adding traces of humanity and warmth in an otherwise light blue-tinged aural edifice. I believe I spotted each distinctive layer, there are not too many involved, but the proportions of the hazy synth winds are enormous, they easily fill the whole arrangement and make it somewhat fluffier. Liverbird is always on the brink of crossing the New Age line, but Lcoma never succumbs to taking this last step, thus letting his two-part track reside in genuine Drone realms. Valiska, on the other hand, lets the sunshine in, as mundane this may seem. In Havana I and II, he fathoms out the concept of counteropposing foils and lets their malignant-lucent phases remain in an unresolved state. I still do not know what Havana wants to be: a sun-soaked depiction of Lebbeus Wods' sketches transformed into music? A bone dry post-apocalyptic diorama with Oriental traces and Sicilian attachments? It is amicable and thoroughly soothing, at times even beautifully blissful as the last minutes of Havana II show, but it changes its shape every so often, pointing to darker back alleys and doleful circumstances. Which mood the listener distills as the superior one really depends on the personal taste and the surroundings. Digital Architecture is a feast for Drone fans, very impressive and enthralling. And it is free! Eureka!




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Ambient Review 186: Lcoma & Valiska – Digital Architecture (2013). Originally published on Feb. 20, 2013 at