REVIEW: Larry Kucharz – “Ambient Red Washes”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chain Border

Ambient Red WashesA seldom-recognized lone wolf figure of the electronic music world, Larry Kucharz, having been producing his work since the seventies, has constructed what could be considered a digital act of contrition. A pensive, spiritual journey of classical-minded ambience trips entitled Ambient Red Washes. Almost new age in theory, Kucharz's meditative syncopations seek escapist purification, a long journey towards electronic nirvana that cleanses the soul with his "red washes." Despite the eccentric sequencing of his numeric placement, Ambient Red Washes is a seventy-six minute act of penance slightly undone at the end, but nonetheless producing an irrefutable sense of healing.

Going in order of the CD's track listing, Red Wash No. 2 is serene, holistic and even post-apocalyptic with high synth notes that take on a heavenly tranquility. Red Wash No. 4 has a sense of urgent repentance about it; the composition has a tendency to produce a sorrowful tone through its peaceful overture, as if seeking forgiveness. 1993 No. 10 features an ascending crescendo, concentrating on solitary lead notes that seldom change, but faithfully take the windiness of Kurcharz's subtle undertone paths. There's a soulful quality to this track because it is expertly handled and transfixed. Plain and simple, it's gorgeous.

Red Wash No. 3 is a triumphant merging of high and low notes that displays confidence and conveys mastery of classical thought in a postmodern reworking. The beautiful sweeps lash at the soul and seek to remove any impurities. 1993 No. 2 is similar in theory to No. 10, though it is a little stripped of the predecessor's mystique. Still, No. 2 engages the listener, especially at the seven minute mark with a trick bass note that deftly signals closure, yet is swept further along by a high note, carrying the composition another five minutes. Red Wash No. 1 has an airy quality to it; a breezy, whispery movement not as effective as the others, but if this is Kucharz's true first Red Wash composition for the project, it is a wonderful building block, albeit strangely placed in the sixth slot of the disc.

1993 No. 4 maintains the same theme as the previous two with subtle differences. It is equally luxuriant and at times otherwordly, calling to mind in certain spots John Williams' Close Encounters of the Third Kind score. At 9:48, 1993 No. 4 reaches a breathtaking climax. Red Wash No. 5 features an abrasive undercurrent; the composition suggests confusion of the muse's part, a soul-searching fragment of time that comes to a righteous conclusion. The dilemma produced on No. 5 is heartfelt and emotional, and we're privileged to share the voyage of discovery and actualization. Red Wash No. 7 jumps out like a surprise with its twinkling lead notes; they are powerful and joyous compliments to the serene but celebratory tone. One realizes that the soul-seeking adventure has at last come to its goal-realized end: inner peace at last.

Herein lies the problem with the disc. Red Wash No. 7 would indicate a satisfying ending, yet there are still two more tracks to go. Red Wash No. 6 would've been better placed before No. 7, not just for numerical continuity, but the continuity of the project itself. No. 6 robs the intense capacity reached at No. 7, leaving an anticlimactic feeling to the exultant end result Kucharz has created. By itself, No. 6 is a briskly paced reworking of the other "washes," a rapid reprise that undermines the project's credibility a bit. Ditto for 1993 No. 1, which is hollow and echoing, a small hint of the other 1993 tracks, not quite the ending this otherwise magnificent project deserves.

That complaint aside, Ambient Red Washes is an electronic masterpiece, a blueprint for younger minds exploring the possibilities of techno and electronic syncopation. A quiet elder statesman of the scene, Larry Kucharz produces a very moving body of work that signifies a catharsis of the individual more so than a catharsis of the artist at large. If it is spiritual healing he has sought, dare to think he has found it.

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