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Porcupine Tree - Nil Recurring CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.95 | 536 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I am a music lover who considers "Fear of a Blank Planet" to not only be the deservingly-anointed prog album of the year 2007 but a strong contender for album of the decade. It's that special. If you have a comparable, lofty opinion of it then adding this bonus disc to your collection is a no-brainer. "Hold on. It's a bit pricey for an EP of just four songs" you may complain but I'm here to assure you that I've spent a lot more and gotten a lot less quality in my day so it's well worth the extra lettuce. Basically these are tracks that didn't fit into the magnificent flow of the masterpiece that is FOABP but that doesn't mean they're substandard at all. Au contraire, monsieur. All four are ripe fruit from the Porcupine Tree and they stand on their own merits accordingly.

The opening salvo that is "Nil Recurring" just may be one of their best instrumentals ever. It constructs a patiently crafted, wonderful piece-by-piece build up to a near frenzy over the first few minutes, then levels out over a psychedelic plateau where the band floats in suspension with guitar and synthesizer incidentals darting in and out of the sky. A large-scale guitar/bass riff follows and that opens things up for drummer extraordinaire Gavin Harrison to dazzle your senses with his amazing stick work before they tack on a wild, frantic ending where guest Robert Fripp performs his unique magical mayhem. It's nothing less than a thrilling, six-minute roller coaster ride. Hop on and strap yourself in.

"Normal" is a variation on the PT song "Sentimental." Don't worry, it's not just a remix but a totally different tune that happens to share some of the same lyrics. They aren't pulling a scam here at all. An acoustic guitar and a short rocking segment start things off before a lighter vocal space ensues with synthesized strings creating a deep backdrop to Steven Wilson's melodic lines. "Here is my car, my phone and my TV/I've got it all but you can still see through me/but am I here?/its kind of hard to tell/I do a good impression of myself/but what's normal now anyhow?" Wilson's unadorned portrayal of the unending angst of the younger generation is poetic yet straight to the point, just as it was throughout FOABP. There's a cool synthesized soprano sax solo to enjoy along the way and then they lull you into a relaxed state of mind prior to jolting you rudely awake with a stunning cannonade of dense sound tidal waves. And then just as unexpectedly they drop down into an acoustic guitar-driven air where intertwining vocal lines chant "wish I was old and a little sentimental" like some child's nursery rhyme. (Careful what you desire, Steven, age and sentimentality aren't always what they're cracked up to be. Take it from one who knows.) A tight, spirited ending brings the song to a tasteful close.

You get a good dose of Harrison's deft touch during the onset of "Cheating the Polygraph" as he rolls effortlessly underneath stark guitar chords and a lonesome vocal. Here Wilson is the voice of the teenage outcast who feels destined and doomed to forever be a disappointment to his parents. "Lying through my teeth again/I've been bad again, black lies/skirting round the truth again/to escape the look in your eyes," he confesses. The number evolves to an intense, riff-based segment, then moves into a jazzy interlude and returns to another round of the verse/chorus. Steven turns in a blistering, edgy electric guitar lead as the group gathers to fire up a big-time finale where Gavin flies over, under, around and through his drum kit. The man is a monster and this is an example of why he's one of the best in the biz.

Light congas and percussion make "What Happens Now?" a welcome change of pace as the group lays the foundation for an outstanding cut that's filled with surprises. An airy atmosphere constructed by keyboard man Richard Barbieri surrounds the vocal in which Wilson expresses how crass materialism pales when one is confronted by the puzzle of existence. "So I got all these things, but so what?/in the end you can't take them with you/you think you can save my soul?/well, ok./tell me, with all your conviction/what happens now?" he questions. A pulsating synth program enters and the song grows and grows until it finally finds a fat groove to drive comfortably inside. It's not unlike some of the soundscapes they traversed back in their 90s "Up the Downstair" phase but they don't linger too long and soon develop a musical segment where they cleverly combine and overlay a variety of beat patterns with fantastic results. Harrison handles the complexity with ease, of course, and eventually "God's Guitars" engulf the track like the aftermath of the parting of the Red Sea. I love it when he does that.

This is simple, really. If you are a fan of Porcupine Tree then you owe it to yourself to indulge in these fine tunes while you wait for future releases. You won't be disappointed. 4.4 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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