Porcupine Tree
Nil Recurring EP

This companion EP to last year’s terrific Fear of a Blank Planet has been accused of being a tack-on, due to the fact that it’s priced as a full release, but only features 4 songs. Those naysayers are even more sour than Steven Wilson’s mood – this is a fantastic release, and definitely not just for completists. The 4 tracks on Nil Recurring stretch out over 30 minutes of playtime, and it’s a far more progressive, freeform jaunt than we’ve heard from Porcupine Tree in some time. It’s also some of the most enveloping, rewarding progressive rock I’ve heard in awhile – not surprising given this band’s stellar output over the years.

Nil Recurring opens with the instrumental title track – a dark, sinister lope unlike anything we’ve heard since “Hatesong” on Lightbulb Sun. Aside from the epic “Anesthetize”, FOABP didn’t feature anything truly unrestrained – tracks still conformed to basic song structure – but Nil Recurring more than makes up for that. Heavily layered and hallucinatory, it recalls the seedy, urban murk of Barry Adamson‘s solo work – a bad night in the wrong part of town, on too many psychedelics. Absorbing stuff, and it’s great to hear Porcupine Tree stretch out again like this.

The next track, “Normal”, will instantly be familiar as its first melody unfolds – it’s a reprise of the track “Sentimental”, from FOABP. In fact, I prefer this version, as it imbues that song’s core lament – “Sullen and bored the kids stay, and in this way, wish away each day” – with more urgency and restless energy. It’s a warmer, more engaging version of what was a wistful, but slightly morose song before.

“Cheating the Polygraph” opens as a more introspective ballad (still not as mopey as anything on FOABP) and then coarsens to a more ominous rocker. This eventually transitions to another long, serpentine prog-jam freakout, highlighted by a wild guitar solo rippling and mutating against neural starbursts of spacey effects and keyboard phantasmagoria. Another transportive, fascinating listen. The final track, “What Happens Now”, is probably my favorite on the disc. What starts as steady and reflective expands to a spacey, invigorating chug, then explodes into a gorgeous soaring supernova. Well worth the price of admission for this track alone.

Much as I enjoyed Fear of a Blank Planet, I found that it dragged in its second half – too many ballads that, while pretty enough, took the exhilaration of the album’s opening and turned it into weepy mope. Nil Recurring features the same kind of sour introspection, but the expansive, layered brilliance on display takes it to a new dimension. I guess if you’re going to spend your time looking inward, then go as deep as you can. I can only hope that the forthcoming Porcupine Tree album – there are rumors that this is just a taste of it – will be as liberating.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
June 2nd, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Thomas Williams

    Great review.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    appreciated! great album!


  3. Commented by: Stiffy

    Nice review. There has been a lot of bad mouth about this CD. I couldn’t imagine Porcupine Tree going sour though.


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