After eight studio albums (five of which as a complete band), modern-day prog-rockers Porcupine Tree returned this year with Fear of a Blank Planet, a 50 minute concept album focusing on the nihilism of a generation lost in a sea of on-demand entertainment and prescription medication. Now, five months later, the follow-up companion EP Nil Recurring gives us the opportunity to assess the Blank Planet concept as a larger manifesto.
It only takes a few listens to realise that Nil Recurring is the real deal — from the six minute instrumental title track (featuring a blistering guitar solo by Robert Fripp) to the spacey, distorted “What Happens Now?”, you’re treated to an aural experience on par with the best the band has produced. At the same time, it’s important to understand that these tracks were part of Fear of a Blank Planet‘s evolution: “Normal” appears to be an alternate (and perhaps better) version of “Sentimental”, and “Cheating the Polygraph” was originally in place of “Way Out of Here” when the album was debuted on the road. But what kept Nil Recurring‘s set of tracks from initially making the cut was not quality but consistency, and one of the main strengths of Fear of a Blank Planet was always how well it worked as a whole.
If anything, Nil Recurring fills in the gaps left by the album proper, and together as a suite they more then adequately summarise the talents possessed by the Barbieri/Edwin/Harrison/Wilson configuration of the group in just under 80 minutes. Anyone who enjoyed Fear of a Blank Planet is missing out by not hearing this EP.