Prog architect’s later-life improv trio unveiled for first time, over six discs.
It was difficult not to feel sorry for Peter Banks at times. A founder member of the original Yes, who he named, Banks complained when he was sidelined by an orchestra on Time And A Word, and was then promptly sacked in April 1970. He could only watch as the band became prog gods with another guitarist.
Over the years, Banks tried his luck with Flash, Empire, solo releases and collaborations before finding himself increasingly called up to annotate Yes’ early legacy for
AN ARCHITECT OF PROG GOING BEYOND WHAT HE
HELPED TO BUILD.
reissues and archival projects. In 2004, he got together with drummer Andrew Booker and bassist Nick Cottam to form the improvisational Harmony In Diversity, finding an open field to run in rather than being shackled to nostalgia. Booker and Cottam have delved into the vaults to produce six CDs of recordings to follow last March’s Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky anthology in this fifth year since Banks passed and 50th since his original band formed: all previously-unreleased (although such music of the spheres would probably have sailed over many old fans’ heads if any record company had dared release it).
Disc one (Struggles Discontained) kicks off the set with relatively short pieces that veer between gentle pulsing (On The Sixth Attempt They Trod On It), scrabbling funk (Inversible Flaw) and vintage Magma bass rumble (Everything Ends In Nothing). The trio start spacing out on four lengthy dissertations on disc two (What Is This?), Banks exploring his effects boxes to get into Sun Ra-Miles Davis space jazz vistas.
By disc three (Trying) and four (Trying Again), the trio have hit an intoxicating stride, cooking up a psychedelic space mantra on No Harm as multi-tracked guitars scream and squall into rare peaks of sonic catharsis. Although Banks can attack with early John McLaughlin intensity, on deeper cuts he recalls overlooked New York electric guitar evangelist Loren Connors, entering a haunted blues hole with every note perfectly placed to leave the right emotional vapour trail. Other times like Sods At Odds, he drops a riff that would have made another Yes classic.
Disc five’s Hitting The Fans (Live) continues the mesmerising Connors-style reveries along with romps over sturdier beats (even Jimi’s Third Stone From The Sun on Out Of The Garage). Spontaneous Creation (disc six) closes the collection with 11 shorter missives of an electronic, metal jazz hue, often graced with spellbinding alien beauty.
This hefty monolith is genuine affirmation that this architect of prog was going way beyond the structures he helped build when he passed; progressive to the end.