GARY HUSBAND The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box Angel Air SJPCD252 (2008)
The last time I saw Gary Husband was at the Dick Heckstall Memorial gig when he took the drum stool behind Jack Bruce and Gary Moore for an impromptu Cream set. Here the famed drummer turns synth noodler and sketch map composer with a double cd set that comprises 1999's 'The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box' and a second CD of previously unreleased material with outtakes, alternative takes and the concluding parts 3, 4 and 5 of his mini suite 'Some Splintered Road Jazz'.
On the subject of jazz there are compositional elements of fusion and Korg generated stop-start percussion that stands as a counterpoint to some fragmented melody lines.
Overall the two CD's feel like a jumble of interconnected pieces of ambient, mood and synth music, which Gary himself describes as 'sketches and compositions' that might be regarded as 'entries in a diary'. And that is apparently how the whole project came about as he sought quiet reflective periods of time while on tour or in between sessions to conjure up his own unique impressionist tableaux.
That said, the music is unique only in terms of its conceptualisation. For whatever musical ideas Gary had in his head are tempered by the use of the late 90's Korg M1 Workstation, so the sounds and moods he achieves are very similar to those to be found in similar recording projects composed on the same machinery. Where Gary does make his mark is with a number of little tension building devices - the frequent use of disguised melody lines set against crashing restless sounding percussion - as on the vaguely Salsa feel of 'Something She Said' and the little repeated motifs on the evocative 'The Stranger'.
He also cleverly teases out the imagery of 'Flashback' with some jazzy sounding keyboard lines. Among the ambient and mood music pieces he goes on to uncover those moments of 'space and time' that he alludes to in his liner notes, on the organ led 'Moviehouse' and also on the delicate and suitably titled 'Le Petit Chemin De Fer', on which the music evokes a little railway!
Gary's ability to make the Korg evoke the titles of his songs is also evident on 'Shapes in the Snow', albeit the sonic flurries conjure up a picture of snow flakes. The seemingly contradictory musical concepts of 'Jolt' and 'Peaceland' are cleverly juxtaposed by the initial manic tempo and a frenzied keyboard style of Zappa's synclavier led 'Jazz From Hell' and a subsequent delicate melody line, showcasing the full range of the Korg. 'Nightclub 1989' is another interesting piece.
Clocking in at barely 90 seconds it neatly combines thunderous percussion with a stop- start tension and more fragmented keyboard lines that evoke the chaos of a nightclub dance floor. And really this track points to both the best of his work and the drawbacks.
For while overall 'The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box' is an enjoyable trip through a land of different moods and feelings, the whole thing is crying out for something a little weightier. Perhaps Gary could have finished the album by pulling together all five parts of 'Some Splintered Road Jazz' and had the courage of his convictions rather than fragmenting his best effort.
For the most part the rest of this double CD outing is an enjoyable impressionistic trawl through his synth explorations and all that is missing is the next logical step to give his aural diary entries a little more cohesion.