Porcupine Tree, Nil Recurring
All the clever things I wanted to say about Nil Recurring by Porcupine Tree ended up not being quite as clever as I thought. So I’ll keep it simple. Porcupine Tree is one of the most exciting bands out there right now, and the amazing thing is that they’ve been around for almost 20 years. Most bands don’t last half that long, and those that do tend to peak early and become dinosaurs. Porcupine Tree, on the other hand, has continued to grow and expand their musical palette, refusing to be pigeonholed into one genre and not being afraid to incorporate whatever sounds they feel fit the song. They’re also not afraid to let a song take as long as it needs to get where it’s going.
If you’re a fan of Porcupine Tree and already own their previous full-length, Fear of a Blank Planet, buy Nil Recurring now. If you’re not (yet) a fan of Porcupine Tree but are interested in trying something new and fresh, go buy Fear of a Blank Planet and Nil Recurring together, then listen to them as a single double-disc album. Simply put, Nil Recurring is not the best starting place for those who are not already fans, but it’s a wonderful expansion of the themes explored on Fear of a Blank Planet.
The best analogy I can think of is the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movies released in theaters were great, but the extended editions were even better. Trying to watch the extended footage on its own would leave you feeling dissatisfied; what you saw might be great, but it would be obvious you were missing the context. That’s how I think of Nil Recurring.
The title track, which is the opening instrumental, is one of the most aggressive things Porcupine Tree has ever recorded, featuring some really sweet lead guitar work from King Crimson’s Robert Fripp. It starts off rather lazily but builds into a frenzy over the course of its six minutes. In fact, all four songs here are excellent, taken individually. The problem, as I said before, is that they don’t gel into a whole. When listened to back-toback with Fear of a Blank Planet, however, you can hear the recurring themes, both musically and lyrically.
So, do I recommend it? Yes, wholeheartedly. But not necessarily for neophytes. Granted, that’s a relative term; after all, I only started listening to the band four months ago. In those four months, however, I’ve obtained all but three of their in-print releases (I’m a little OCD). Deadwing was my entry point, and it wasn’t until I’d bought Fear of a Blank Planet and In Absentia that I finally heard Nil Recurring.
Had it been my first exposure to Porcupine Tree, I’m not sure what I would have thought of it. I probably would have liked it enough to check out some of their other stuff…at some point in the future. But I don’t think I’d have rushed right out and bought more — and that would have been a shame, because I’ve discovered some incredible music in the last four months. Fortunately, that’s not how I started off, and I can now appreciate Nil Recurring in its proper context. I encourage you to do the same.