I've written plenty of reviews over the years about the UK progressive rock/metal outfit Porcupine Tree, and always sung the praises of both the band and their mastermind Steven Wilson. The band's blend of progressive, rock, metal, ambient, and even pop influences makes them an incredibly rewarding listen time and time again. Their 2007 release Fear of a Blank Planet easily ranks as one of my all-time favorite albums, especially since it featured some of the band's heaviest and darkest material. As has been the case with many of the band's releases, the album's songwriting sessions resulted in a couple of extra songs that just simply did not fit the flow of the album (especially since the band had a very specific length in mind for Blank Planet). The band would ultimately take these songs and release them through their online store and on tour.
Nil Recurring was initially released online in September 2007, but additional printings would follow due to demand rapidly exceeding the original supply. The four songs included were all initally written during the Blank Planet sessions, so thematically they are very similar to the material found on that album. One song, "Cheating the Polygraph," was initally slated to be on the album, but was ultimately dropped in favor of "Way Out of Here," which was written later on. "Cheating the Polygraph" will be the most familiar to diehard fans, as it was played live in the months leading up to the release of Blank Planet and has appeared in subsequent live performances as well. Musically it does fit the flow of Blank Planet pretty well, having a much heavier and darker sound that seemed to classify the album (however, the more desolate sound of "Way Out of Here" seems to fit the original album better which makes me glad they went the direction they did). Nonetheless, "Cheating the Polygraph" stands well against some of the band's more recent highlights.
Another song that fans will take notice of is "Normal," a mostly acoustic song that was one of the first songs written during the recording sessions. However, fans will likely recognize "Normal" for what it became rather than what it is, as the song was eventually reworked and simplified to become "Sentimental" on Fear of a Blank Planet, which in my opinion is easily one of the band's most underrated songs. Both songs share the same chorus and contain references to each other lyrically as well as musically, making them nice companion pieces to each other. While not as depressing as "Sentimental," "Normal" has a similiar vibe with a slightly different atmosphere. Plus it's a fun song to listen to in order to pick out the little nuances it shares between its counterpart.
Rounding out the EP are the opening instrumental track "Nil Recurring," which features a guest appearance from Robert Fripp of King Crimson, and the closer "What Happens Now?" which also has references to Blank Planet material. Both songs carry the dark, progressive hard rock vibe that made Blank Planet such a great album and would not have seemed out of place at all had the band decided to make the album longer.
Nil Recurring, like Lazarus from the Deadwing sessions and essentially disc 2 of The Incident, is essentially a way for the band to get out some additional material that was written during those sessions that may not necessarily fit the flow of the album. At 24 minutes across four songs, the EP has a pretty solid amount of music to go around as well. While these are all strong songs, it is understandable why each was left off the final product as the flow of Fear of a Blank Planet is so crucial to the overall experience of the album that keeping these songs separate would ultimately prove to be a wise move. Although the EP comes with a surprisingly steep price tag for a release with only four tracks, it can be downloaded legally for a fair price and is definitely worth it for all fans of the band - especially those who crave just a little bit more after Fear of a Blank Planet.
More Porcupine Tree -
Fear of a Blank Planet