[Review] Peter Banks: Instinct (1994)

A modern instrumental rock record with jazzy and new age overtones, from the Yes/Flash guitarist.

Kronomyth 2.0: Desire caught by the tale of a progrock scion.

I’m a big fan of Yes, and for us the question of I wonder what Peter Banks is up to? was a perennial and gnawing one, like I wonder if I left the coffee maker turned on? is for the general population when they’re driving to work. I write “was” because, of course, Peter Banks has passed on to the blue beyond. In the wake of Yes’ Union tour, however, the question of whatever happened to was a relevant one, as Banks was conspicuously absent from the reunion. His rejoinder arrived several years later in the form of Instinct (and, specifically, Shortcomings), a solo instrumental album that straddles the worlds of jazz, prog and new age in an otherwise low-key but not low-quality setting.

With programmed drum tracks and snippets of media (reminiscent of both My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Big Audio Dynamite), Instinct isn’t so far removed from the work of Adrian Belew, Andy Summers, Pat Metheny and Steve Vai. That, in itself, is something to be thankful for, and likely to please Banks’ long-suffering (for lack of anything to listen to) fans. It’s not an ostensibly better record than, say, Belew’s Desire Caught By the Tail, but it’s not a poorly produced collection of private parts and pieces either.

Sparing the listener from what Banks self-deprecatingly refers to as “any vocal yodelling and warblings that I might aspire to,” Instinct relies on snippets of movie dialogue and various sound effects to speak for him. When it’s effective, the dialogue recalls the clever editing of David Byrne and Brian Eno (“Shortcomings,” Code Blue) or BAD’s sense of humor (Sticky Wicket, Anima Mundi). Banks also cites collaborators on a handful of tracks, although I couldn’t tell you what Gerald Goff or Bill Forth add to the mix.

At twelve cuts and fifty-six minutes, Instinct is a generous helping of how’ve you been. A few of the songs do run on a little long, but every track serves as a pleasant postcard from some musical outpost. The watercolor tones of No Place Like Home, the frenetic “Shortcomings,” and the King Crimsonesque (circa Discipline) Dominating Factor lend character to Banks’ uncluttered arsenal of an Ibanez electric and a guitar synthesizer. If you enjoy instrumental guitar rock with atmospheric and jazzy overtones, Instinct is worth checking out. And, now, to peek in on Patrick Moraz

The Songs

A1. No Place Like Home
A2. All Points South (Peter Banks/Gerald Goff)
A3. Fogbound
A4. Sticky Wicket
A5. Shortcomings
A6. Code Blue (Peter Banks/Gerald Goff)
A7. Angels
A8. Anima Mundi
A9. Swamp Report (Peter Banks/Gerald Goff)
A10. Instinctive Behaviour
A11. Dominating Factor (Peter Banks/Bill Forth)
A12. Never the Same (Peter Banks/Gerald Goff)

Songs written by Peter Banks unless noted.

The Players

Peter Banks (performer, arranger). Produced by Peter Banks; mixed by Bill Forth.

The Plastic

Released on compact disc in 1993 in the UK (HTD, HTD CD 11) and in May 1994 in the US (Wildcat, WLD-9205).

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1999 in the UK (Transatlantic, TRACD 309) and the US (Castle Music America, CMACD 517).
  2. Re-packaged as The Self-Contained Trilogy with Self-Contained and Reduction on 3CD set in 2018 in the UK (Peter Banks Musical Estate).

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