Larry Kucharz is a minimalist composer perhaps best known for his “Ambient Washes” series, where a tonal “color” is explored in a stripped-down way that focuses the music on what he calls the “uncluttered melodic or rhythmic structures.” But Kucharz also dabbles in the dancier side of things, playing in the fields of techno and EDM. This is where we find him on his 2011 release, Unit IA42, and the offerings here are a bit of a mixed bag. I have to say that, having listened to a fair amount of Kucharz’s work, I find the washes more to my liking. But there are definitely ear-catching pieces on Unit IA42, and the strongest of them are the initial four pieces, his “Binary Suite,” offered as an example of his symphonic electronica. In fact, there’s a distinct switch that comes after this quartet of movements; the latter pieces feel somehow less sophisticated, or perhaps just thinner in content. The first four tracks align with the chill side of things, soft at the edges but laced through with sharp sequencer lines. “Life IA42” shifts from a slow-breath meter to a hurried walk measured in low notes. The suite closes nicely with “Binary Funeral IA42,” my favorite track here. A low end like a pizzicato cello anchors sweetly singing string sounds. Wave-washes of whitish noise rise intermittently and a simple clicking rhythm marks time. It’s laid back and yet fairly deep. I have said I have issues with the latter part of the disc, but it’s not without its own moments. “U302 Remix 42” carries a surprising amount of impact, given its very sparse elements. It has an early electronic feel, with an insistent–make that unchanging–bass-drum meter and grumbling, repeating four-note low end. Snaps of early analog percussion form the remainder of the sounds, moving in absolute, circular structure. Despite what seems like a recipe for static music, there’s a definite dynamic and Kucharz’s equation keeps you held there. I was surprised to look at my iPod mid-song and realize that it’s almost 10 minutes long. Welcome to your trance state, Mr. Hypnagogue. He catches me again with the frantic jazz piano feel that drives “Juke It 42,” although it could do without the processed voice chanting “Juke it!” “Ambient Dance 42” offers up a catchy mix of drum rushes punctuating sparse club-like electronic phrases. My only problem with Unit IA42 is that it feels like it grows too thin toward the end of the disc, with the last two cuts coming in to somewhat save it. It may just be that the ultra-repetitive, heard-it-before mathematics of techno wear out their welcome for me. I often feel the same way with glitch-based electronica. It’s a weighted scale, really. Looking at it as experiments with the forms and standards of electronic dance music, I get Unit IA42. As a listener, however, I find myself accepting about half and hurrying past the other half. Going back to what I said before, Kucharz’s Washes CDs are a better point of entry into this superb composer’s musical mindset.
Available from CD Baby.