Reviewed by Nuno on 29 Apr 2002
When a band releases a collection of b-side's and "leftovers" that didn't find their way through Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun, one can really expect to find an unbalanced record, with some less accomplished songs making justice to their "leftover" condition.
What is amazing about Recordings is that, not really being an album but a collection of songs, it is way stronger and consistent than the majority of the albums we listen from so many bands out there. In fact, Recordings is yet another strong mark in Porcupine Tree's prolific career.
Continuing in their successful musical path that kindly mixes Ambient, Space and Psychedelic Prog with Acoustic Alternative and even some Pop oriented tunes, Porcupine Tree's Recordings is a real joy for the senses. OK, so I prefer both albums that were released by the time these songs were recorded, nevertheless there are enough masterful moments here that would embarrass a huge number of prog album releases.
Buying New Soul is a song that perfectly recreates the whole Universe of PT's musicality. It consists in the very own spacey-acoustic mix to which some bursting rhythms and energetic guitar soloing are added.
Access Denied sounds just like an alternative and obscure 80's song with 60's leanings. It is not at all amongst the best songs here, though it plays with the capacity of PT to surprise its fan. Nevertheless, the weakest and most easily forgettable track in the album.
Cure for Optimism is very minimalist, but the sound can be immediately associated to the PT conceptuality. The vocals are delivered like the singer is just watching the scene from somewhere out, as they sound introspective and grieving.
Untitled is a psychedelic journey, much in the vein of Voyage 34. It has much the same structuring and mood as Buying New Soul but it is all-instrumental. Interesting enough to keep your attention and your search for the details that are sparkled here and there.
Disappear and In Formaldehyde could perfectly be included in Lightbulb Sun. They have the exact mood and ambiance as some of the brightest songs in that album. The joyful vibe for which Disappear evolves is just the opposite of what the lyrics are pointing out to.
Ambulance Chasing is just overwhelming in the true PT way. Oriental sounds and an odd saxophone solo accompany the driving rhythm settled by the drums till the song unfolds to a more common Pink Floydish texture (just listen to Steven Wilson's solo), though with the distinct Porcupine Tree signature. Undoubtedly one of the best tracks in the album.
Even Less is the 14 minute opus of the album. It consists in two different parts that were joined here to the better effect. The first part can be found in Stupid Dream and the second on the single Stranger by the minute. The fact is that the full track sounds better than the two parts separated. This is the highlight of recordings in my modest opinion. The true soul of Porcupine Tree's music is here on full display. Powerful, experimental, psychedelic and always well constructed.
The final Oceans have no memory returns to the quieter and acoustic side of this band. The song slightly reminds me of late 60's psycho-pop and has connections to the sound of early Fleetwood Mac.
For the fans of the band, this is no less than essential, unless you already own the whole pack of single-cd's where these songs are featured. For the rest of you proggers this is still a tremendous collection of less known material from this terrific band. Either way, I did buy it!