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Music Review: Porcupine Tree – We Lost The Skyline

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Porcupine Tree is this really great British progressive rock band that practically no one in America has ever heard of. Well, at least outside of the tiny, yet rabidly devoted cult following the members have developed both here and elsewhere over the years anyway.

It is also a band I've grown to like a whole lot, ever since I was introduced to them by my fellow BC music scribes Tom Johnson and Pico last year. This has proven to be an often difficult — and expensive — proposition, since these guys put out a buttload of music, a lot of which is often of the difficult to find variety, and has to be tracked down.

The Porcupine Tree catalog stretches back nearly two decades worth now, much of it being out-of-print, multiple CD packages and EP's released on small independent labels. And that's just the Porcupine Tree stuff. There are also all of the side projects by Porcupine Tree's resident creative genius, singer/songwriter/guitarist Steven Wilson to consider. These include the ambient Bass Communion records, as well as side bands like No-Man and Blackfield, his largely acoustic project with Israeli songwriter Aviv Geffen.

It's enough to drive a relatively new fan like myself bonkers — if not completely broke.

So anyway, in just this past year since Porcupine Tree released their last album, the great Fear Of A Blank Planet, they have released two more EP's. The first of these, a four track "companion" record to FOABP called Nil Recurring came out a few months back.

Now, just this week comes We Lost The Skyline, an eight-track, 33-minute long live "in-store" performance recorded at Park Avenue Records in Orlando last year. What makes this yet another "must-have" is the fact that over half of it features just Wilson himself, performing many rarely played Porcupine Tree songs in an intimate setting on just the guitar.

For instance, there's "The Sky Moves Sideways," which also gives us the title of this CD (it's taken from one of the song lyrics). In its original form, on the double album of the same name, the song stretches out over two sides, with thirty some odd minutes of Pink Floydian atmospherics. Here, the song is stripped to its bare essentials, and comes in at a more economical four minutes. It is however, every bit as gorgeous sounding as the original.

On latter tracks like "Waiting," (another of the more beautiful Porcupine Tree songs, this one from Signify), Wilson is joined by Porcupine Tree guitarist John Wesley. Wilson prefaces the song "Normal" from the Nil Recurring EP by name-dropping Robert Fripp as he relates the story of how difficult the song actually is to play. He later nails it, but only after warning the crowd that he may "fuck it up." "Normal" is actually somewhat of an extension of "Sentimental," a song from FOABP, that also happens to be my favorite off the album.

If you are already a Porcupine Tree fan, this live EP is a must-have. For those less familiar, it's a great little introduction to Steven Wilson the songwriter, if not the actual sound of Porcupine Tree the band.

However, this won't be easy to find. The good news is that if you are able to locate a copy, you should be able to pick it up for under ten bucks. The best bet here is to go to Porcupine Tree's website, or you can locate a store near you that is part of the Think Indie network of independent record stores.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    It’s rare these days to find an artist who is both as productive and as consistently creative as Steve Wilson. Releases with his stamp on it come out just months apart and sometimes they are completely different from each other. But almost always good.

    Nice job with the review!

  • http://www.prawnsong.com/bullboard/ nana

    Hi there, this is the shop that Skyline was recorded in and they are pretty much the largest stateside distributor of it…it’s the first thing you see when you open their page.

    I got my copy from them today. It’s a very clean crisp sounding recording and the story is that Steven listened to it in the back room of the shop afterward and ok’d it immediately for their next release, a rare thing for him as he requires sonic perfection and usually does a studio tweak on everything first.

    He’s so relaxed here, I love the way he’s talking to that lucky crowd of fans and they are loving it, too. It’s so short, he really slams thru the songs, but it’s wonderful. It’s the only thing we’re going to get from PT this year so enjoy it! I am!!!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanx for commenting Nana.

    And I do really enjoy this recording…it’s so intimate for one thing. I got into PT like a week after the last time they played my neck of the woods here in Seattle, and I just missed em’. So I’ve been kicking myself ever since. Hopefully even though your comment seems to indicate were not getting a new record this year, I sure hope they tour the US again. I promise I wont miss them next time.

    In the meantime, this EP and the “Tour Of A Blank Planet” boot I just found will have to tide me over.

    Thanx for the comment.

    -Glen

  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    I found this in my mailbox last week. Imagine my surprise, however, when EVERY music store I stopped in had at least a half-dozen copies of this thing for half the price I paid for it – a week before I got my copy! This is the price you pay being a PTree fan – we jump now when they release something because they’ve bitten us in the past. We’ve learned the hard way: wait and miss out. Or buy immediately and pay too much and get it after it’s inexplicably released locally. I never win.

    Anyway, what I have read is that Wilson will be working with no-man this year, rather than PTree. This would be a great time to explore the no-man catalog, if you haven’t already. That’s an equally unique, but completely different beast than Porcupine Tree.

  • Revenant

    Dude, PTree is well known in the states… I live in Houston, they have played here in 2005 & 2007… sold out both shows… not everyone listens to what MTV or radio tells us to…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    My point was that they have a relatively small following. They’ve played Seattle too by the way…unfortunately I missed it.

    -Glen

  • Michael Connelly

    Hi all in the states!! this is a PT fan from Scotland. I have to agree the stripped down sound in this album is beautiful. I have been a PT fan since 1998 and have seen them numerous times they have played in Glasgow and have also started getting into Steven Wilson’s side projects such as Blackfield, Bass communication, etc… Spread the word of this fantastic band!!!