Porcupine Tree - Nil Recurring
Peaceville Records - CDVILEF235 - February 18, 2008
By Jack Deming
Upon approaching Porcupine Tree's
latest EP Nil Recurring
with the knowledge that it was recorded at the same time as 2007's Fear of a Blank Planet
, many non-PT
disciples may dismiss this album as simply a smattering of lower quality material released for the hell of it, especially given the large volume of music, LPs and EPs alike, that they have released in the past. This would be an unwise assumption however, because if I hadn't been previously aware of this fact, the notion that they seemed similar would not have crossed my mind for a second, because recorded at the same time or not, these albums have noticeably different atmospheres.
It is somewhat unclear whether these tracks are straight outtakes from the Fear of a Blank Planet
album or simply four songs that were written at the same session for a separate project altogether, but whatever the case, the four tracks on Nil Recurring
have an undeniable chemistry with each other that presents a quality and complete listening experience. Even though track by track reviews are unanimously hailed as rape in music journalism, I feel I should nevertheless give a modified version of one in an attempt to illustrate the seamless way in which these songs flow together.
The instrumental 'Nil Recurring'
kicks off the album, emitting the vibe of the beginnings of jam session, and then building slowly up and tumbling into an epic release of melody and heaviness. Riddled with odd time passages and interesting melodic ideas, it really gets one in the mood of the album. 'Normal'
, the highlight of the album to my ears, immediately brings the mood of the music down by lapsing into a spacey, melodic, acoustic opus that with an essence similar to In Absentia's 'Trains'
, featuring addictive melodic hooks provided by the vocals of Steven Wilson (a main melody is actually taken from 'Sentimental'
from Fear of a Blank Planet
) and his capoed acoustic guitar playing. The lyrical content of 'Normal'
features a lot of the commercial themes present throughout Fear of a Blank Planet
, one aspect of FoaBP
that I found grew incredibly dull with overuse. This however is one of the very few parallels to FoaBP
present on Nil Recurring
, and this time the themes are thankfully in moderation. 'Cheating the Polygraph'
is a much slower, more ambient sounding track with no real catchy melodic parts to speak of, but very powerful harmonic composition, which is a huge strength of Porcupine Tree's
. The album closes with 'What Happens Now?"
, giving an impression of "winding down" and wrapping everything up musically, only to explode in the end in a last epic crescendo, releasing the tension building throughout the album, absent until now of an all out release of energy.
To sum up, not only is Nil Recurring
fantastic in terms of musical content, but it has an air of completeness I find to be lacking in many EPs and full albums alike. Any piece of music, no matter whether it is long or short playing, should not be simply thrown together but be carefully organized to achieve an overall desired effect, an art exemplified incredibly well on Nil Recurring
. But after all, from a band like Porcupine Tree
, I would expect no less.
Official Porcupine Tree Website
Official Peaceville Records Website