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.