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Peter Banks

The Self-Contained Trilogy

Review by Gary Hill

This new three-CD set is a classy thing. It includes three full albums from Peter Banks (arguably best known for his time in both Yes and Flash). These three albums are all instrumental and all classy. Each CD is one album, and this also includes a nice booklet with the covers and liner notes to all three albums. I think at least one (and perhaps all) of these are out of print now as separate discs. If the fact that this is value-priced and contains all three didn't get you, that fact should. I highly recommend this for fans of guitar based instrumental music, and particularly anyone who liked Banks in his various bands (he was also in The Syn, Mabel Greer's Toyshop and Peter Banks' Empire). I have reviewed each of these discs independently and then drawn those reviews all together here for this box set review.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
    
Instinct
I've always loved Peter Banks' guitar work. This album has a lot of great guitar work, but it doesn't stop there. Banks plays everything here, and he weaves an instrumental tale that covers a lot of musical territory. I suppose more often than not it lands under fusion, but it's clearly not limited to even that. I'm doing this both as an individual review, but also as part of a review of the new box set The Self-Contained Trilogy. I believe the original album as an individual set is out of print, but you can get it in the box set, and it's a better bargain that way, anyway.
No Place Like Home
Mellow jazz guitar is the concept here. Banks shows immediately that he really masters the instrument, but still manages to pack this full of nuance.
All Points South
Weird clips start this number, and then some world music vocals enter. The cut works out from there to some ambient weirdness before threatening to start rocking. It rises up with a more rocking fusion kind of sound as it carries forward. There are some soaring world music melodies as this drives forward. Banks puts in some awesome soloing, but it's always in service to the whole song.
Fogbound
As you might guess of a song with this title, the track is a bit ambient and moody. It's a little trippy and quite pretty.
Sticky Wicket
More of an energized fusion based number, this even has some funk built into it. I love some of the tasty guitar work and the varying angles of sound it brings. This is a fun tune. The funky break later includes some little sound clips built into it.
Shortcomings
With some sound clips at the start, this works out to some killer fast paced fusion jamming. There is a lot of funk built into this thing.  There are some other bits of soundbites in the mix on this and the cut works through some killer shifts and changes. Banks really showed what an incredible guitar player he was on this number. It even works toward King Crimson-like stuff at some points.
Code Blue
There is an almost electronic music vibe to this cut. It's less intense than the last number, yet there is a drama and a power to it. It again has some sound bites, sometimes becoming a significant part of the musicality of this track. There is some more powerhouse guitar soloing on the tune. This manages to get a little funky as it works forward later.
Angels
An odd little sound clip starts this cut. Then some cool jamming ensues. There is definitely an almost Adrian Belew kind of vibe to this thing. Of course, it's all delivered with trademark Peter Banks textures and sounds. While this is high energy and a lot of fun, it drops back for a mellower movement mid-track. This thing works through a number of changes, and it's just so cool. In fact, this is one of my favorites here.
Anima Mundi
There is a bit of a rock and roll vibe to this. It seems to have some rockabilly combined with the blues and a fusion element. This is particularly short, but also quite cool.
Swamp People
The rocking modes that bring this into being have a real King Crimson kind of element to them. The tune has some killer jamming built into it with some hints of funk and more. A fast paced jam later in the track brings some hints of world music and more to this thing.
Instinctive Behaviour.
Fast paced percussion opens this. The cut rises up in a fusion style as it works forward. This is one of the strangest tunes here, but it's also compelling and powerful. It's less than a minute long and serves more as an intro to the next cut.
Dominating Factor
With a definite King Crimson-like vibe, this is a fast paced and energized prog rocker that's very cool.
Never the Same
An extended sound clip starts this number. It grows outward from there in a mellow jazzy kind of way. This mellow tune has a lot of classy melodic guitar work built into it. It is a great way to ground the set before it all ends.
Disc 2
            
Peter Banks - Self-Contained
This album from Peter Banks is perhaps not his strongest solo set. That said, it has some very strong material. At times it seems to lack direction and get a bit on the wandering side. Still, there is a lot of great music here. I should note that this lands here under "Peter Banks," but it's actually credited as "Pete Banks." It fits under "Peter" here for two reasons. First, that's because it's how we have him listed in Music Street Journal. Secondly, it actually is listed as "Peter" on the box set I'm also reviewing in this issue (The Self-Contained Trilogy) of which this is one of three discs in the set.
Radio Foreplay
The sounds of someone walking around open this. Then, as you might imagine, we hear someone searching through radio channels.
Endless Journey
Mellow and rather ambient, this is a cool bit of ambience. There are bits of people talking about music.
More Foreplay
Here we get some strange sound effects and in-studio elements. This ends with some noisy guitar playing.
Massive Trouser Clearance
This starts a bit tentatively but turns out to the most song-oriented piece here. It has some killer fusion elements at play. The cut has some cool changes and has some definite rock-oriented moments. It also gets into more dropped back, electronic styled things. I really dig the guitar work on this, but that is pretty much a given.
Lost Days
There is a little radio snippet of two people talking about Yes. Then some moody, mellower music rises up to drive the piece forward. While pretty, there is a melancholy vibe to this cut.
Away Days
Some killer fusion drives this number. It has a good groove and works well.
Two Sides
This short piece lands in the mellow end of the equation. It's a tasty number.
Self-Contained
The title track is intricate, mellow and pretty.
Clues
With quite a few sound bites in the mix, this rises up with a cool rock meets fusion groove. This is energized and a lot of fun. It has some particularly soaring moments as it drives onward. There is really some powerhouse jamming as this evolves. The closing bit is such a cool rocking jam.
The Three Realms
Mellower music with nature sounds leads this piece into being. This develops and gets pretty involved, yet it still remains in the sedate zone. There is some killer guitar work built into it. There is a little piano before this glides into the next number.
Tell Me When
Another mellower cut, this has some tasty guitar work early in the number to lead it off nicely. This is really pretty and has a great flow to it. It has some great fusion as it grows upward.
Funkin' Profundity
There are some sounds of nature at the start of this. Then a weird electronic prog groove is heard. Tribal percussion rises up as this works forward. Sound clips are a big part of this cut. It has a real world music meets funk kind of vibe to it. This gets really intense as the guitar drives it upward as it moves forward. It becomes a real screamer.
It's All Greek to Me
                   
The Great Dionysia

With sound bites at the start, this works out to some cool rocking stuff from there. The guitar soloing on this thing gets pretty darned intense as it drives forward. There are some voices on this, but they are loops. That's when the song drops way down to continue.

Erotokritos
A mellower cut this is quite pretty and works well. It has suitably Greek oriented music elements at play.
Less Talk
This is another cool instrumental piece. It feels a bit like an extension of the last one. Then again they are both movements of the same piece.
Oriental Bent
Coming in energized and more rocking, this is killer stuff. It really has some great musical elements at play. There are definite fusion elements in the mix.
In an Idyll Momentum
A mellower piece, this seems to come out of the last one. It has some shifts and changes as it works through.
Unnatural History
This gets into some noisier territory while still remaining reasonably understated.
Greekspeak
This is a strange bit of fusion that has some killer guitar work.
The Great Stifado
Built on a real rocking groove, this is classy stuff. .
Thinking of You
This mellower piece is quite pretty.
Disc 3
          
Peter Banks - Reduction
This is the third (and final) album included in the new box set from Peter Banks titled "The Self-Contained Trilogy." This instrumental album is classy. I've reviewed both as an individual disc and as part of that box set, using this same review. Like the other discs in the trilogy, this one uses sound bites, but probably not to the same degree as the other two did. This one leans more toward the mellow and fusion end of the spectrum perhaps. It's also the shortest of the three, but that's not a bad thing. All in all, this is a solid instrumental album that stands as a lasting tribute to Banks' art.
Diminuendo in Bloom
There is an introduction to a live audience of the Peter Banks band. Then some weird effects and electronics take over from there. It's nearly a minute in before any real music shows up. Even then it's sort of atmospheric and textural. Odd sound bites and other things are in the mix. The full effect is sort of a Synergy does Pink Floyd kind of thing. This runs into the next cut.
Tone Down
Coming out of the previous one, the music elements start to grow outward with a bit of a King Crimson turned funky approach. Still, it's rather understated in a lot of ways. This gets pretty fusion like as it continues. The intensity really builds, and there is some exceptional guitar work here.
The Age of Distortion
Coming out of the previous number, this has a killer funky groove to it. It's another killer fusion jam. There is a surf-guitar section as it approaches the mid-track point. It works back out to more of the powered up fusion sounds. It eventually drops back down for a bit of a noisy closing bit.
Fade to Blue
This comes in mellower and quite intricate and pretty. It grows outward by building upon that musical concept.
Fathat
Here we have a killer rocking tune. This has some of that surf sound in the mix, too. It's a cool number with good energy and classy jamming. It definitely has a retro texture to it in a lot of ways.
As Night Falls...
Textural sounds bring this into being, and it gradually rises from there.
Consolation in Isolation
This in some ways feels like an extension of the previous cut. It's quite intricate and very mellow.
Dirty Little Secret
A smoking hot rocker, this thing is so cool. Banks' guitar work is (of course) impeccable. He is screaming hot.
As Ever
This is mellow, intricate and pretty. It ends with bird sounds after the announcement that, "I'm going to let the bird out."
Pirate's Pleasure
There is a techno kind of groove to this in some ways. The tune gets into more of a rock meets fusion jam from there. There is some particularly cool guitar soloing on this number.
Rosa Nova
I love the mellow musical motif that makes up the first part of this classy number. Banks' guitar work is of course precisely on-point. This is over nine-minutes long, though, so it works forward. It works out to some pretty intense and exploratory fusion after a time. It gets back into the mellow zone before it ends.
 
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