HTD 1993, 1997; One Way 1996 / The Right Honourable 2018
Former YES axeman’s oft-overlooked hat-trick of low-profile individual endeavors creates an arc of arcane narrative.
This is a paradox but the invariably individual Peter Banks always preferred running with the pack – on his own terms – to going it alone, which made the guitarist’s personal discography a meager proposition. He also played a disappearing act in the ’80s, fading from view after EMPIRE’s output failed to secure a release and returning to the scene in the following decade with these instrumental servings. They fell through the cracks as single projects yet, gathered in a box set, gel into a distinct whole to shine a different light on the artist’s mindset by marrying, via MIDI, electric assault to synthetic texture.
“Some critics argued that YES’ music was pretentious and empty. Yeah, that’s valid; I would go along with that as well”: tagged onto the end of one cut here, this spoken word, presumably from Peter’s interview, may explain his approach to the ’90s burst of activity, although the nostalgia oozing out of “Lost Days” doesn’t feel apologetic, and the sunny “Away Days” offers a teaser as to where the guitarist had wanted to be heading, genre-wise, before the trilogy arrived. Banks emerged from progressive opulence of his past as a remarkable proponent of a fusion stripe, styling the latter-day records – laid out in a solo mode, as outlined by the title of “Self-Contained” that would fit between “Instinct” and “Reduction” to define the performer’s impulse and control – in a way radio waves accidentally bring home unknown, sometimes alien, tunes.
Of course, there is familiar art-rock ripple in vignettes like “No Place Like Home” or “Anima Mundi” – and “Two-Rides” should evoke the "Two Sides" vibe – but more epic suites weave unexpected, slightly exotic, folk motifs into their multi-melodies scope: sirtaki-esque across the eight-part “It’s All Greek To Me”; Eastern in one of its segments, “Oriental Bent,” and samba in other, “The Great Stifado”; flamenco-to-mariachi, if stricken with pop harmonics, in “All Points South” – all arrestingly cinematic even without an occasional sound effect or a snippet of dialogue. Peter was no stranger to gypsy jazz, either, as suggested by “Sticky Wicket” whose licks are playfully filigree, nor to techno-spiked funk as displayed in “Shortcomings” and “Clues” whose speedy, yet lyrical, shredding should open a new perspective to the veteran’s oeuvre. Surprises are abound in Banks’ compositions, and while adventurous meandering of the effusive “Angels” or reflective elegy taking “Never The Same” toward acoustic sunset hold no wonder, only sweet repose, and electronic tincture of “Pirate’s Pleasure” doesn’t incite riot, only excitement, humorous pieces – such as “More Foreplay” which is little more than a riff, and brief quotes scattered around: a line from “People Get Ready” in “Thinking Of You”; a line from “We Three Kings” in “Fathat”; a line from “La Marseillaise” in “Massive Trouser Clearance” whose buzz seems blissfully hectic – will keep the listener on their toes.
“Reduction is the way to production” is a phrase cropping up in the many-faceted “Tone Down” yet its festive twang wouldn’t live up to this minimalistic motto, and there’s no stopping to the exploration of tone liquidity in “Endless Journey” and of transparent expectancy in “Tell Me When” whereas “Diminuendo In Bloom” hints at blues and the dreamy lace of “Fade To Blue” wraps sadness in a chamber enchantment. But if “Rosa Nova” sees “Strangers In The Night” lurk in its exquisite romance, “Dirty Little Secret” dives into a Hendrix wah-wah-wash that’s spiced up with reggae. All of this is explosive material – tempered in a typical Peter Banks’ manner which made him an enigma, self-contained and alluring. Unfortunately, the trilogy became the guitarist’s last ever project, a testament to his constant progress into the unknown.