UK-based Porcupine Tree has always been a band that defies categorization. None of the tags fit, not psychedelic, not progressive metal, not trip hop, not industrial, not plain old rock. Listening to Porcupine Tree’s discography from one album to the next is more like witnessing a Quixotic quest than witnessing a clear-cut progression of musicianship and songwriting as with most bands. Nil Recurring (their latest EP from the sessions that birthed their LP record, Fear of a Blank Planet) is a microcosm of their career in this sense—each track is an epic journey, traditional song structure be damned.
The EP contains four tracks, clocking in at just under thirty minutes total. The first track, “Nil Recurring,” is an instrumental-—a science fiction horror soundscape, part psychedelic trip out, part Lovecraftian descent into the abyss—-harkening back to the sounds of Signify, Porcupine’s first studio album as a bonified band rather than just a side project of singer/songwriter Steven Wilson. The remaining three songs are even more epic, each one a journey that touches upon each of the Porcupine Tree sounds of the past, at one moment ethereal and dreamlike, (with angelic harmonies), the next a flurry of drums and crunching guitars, then a sing-along refrain or a multi-layered tapestry of snyths, guitars, wandering bass, and tribal percussion.
Lyrically, the EP explores themes that are both thoughtful and challenging without being preachy. On the last and best of the tracks, Wilson asks: “You think you can save my soul / well, okay / Tell me, with all your conviction…” and then the refrain: “What happens next?” And while the question is posed to ponder what happens after death, it can just as aptly be applied to Porcupine Tree—what happens next?