This then is the new album from Kaprekar’s Constant, it is an interesting concept and listening experience and one that will engage you in some history, bravery, tragedy and triumph, all from the comfort of your own armchair!
The concept is about mountaineering, one of the band, Al Nicholson, knows the area around the Eiger in Grindelwald and Scheigg and came up with the concept of linking six attempts to conquer the North face of the Eiger between 1935 and 2007. This makes for an interesting and unusual set of pieces, as with every Kaprekar’s Constant album. Research has been conducted by the band to make the context real and valid and this project has been well composed and recorded to their usual high quality. The band have really worked on imbuing these tracks with life and capturing the daring boldness of the various climbers detailed throughout.
The album begins with a prologue that sets the scene for all that follows, the graceful voice of Dorie Jackson and the contrasting rougher vocal of Bill Jefferson gel together beautifully and really lend a powerful performance to proceedings.
This is an album that will require you to give it some time for is subtlety to shine through. The music is mainly folk based but with enough electrification to make it worthwhile. There is some understated excellence at play here with some lovely guitar lines and melodies along with great keyboards and the ever reliable saxophone and flutes of David Jackson, whose presence is a key part of this band’s sound and ethos.
After the short instrumental Theme (Hall of Mirrors) we are told of Tall Tales By Firelight on which David really excels, the song talking about the world carrying on in the face of disaster. Failure Takes Care Of Its Own follows and this song tells of the disastrous attempt on the Eiger in 1936 by Toni Kurz, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Willi Angerer and Edinburgh Rainer that is still one of mountaineering’s most notorious tragedies. The sound is a moving and sorrowful one and leads into Another Man’s Smile which tells the story of the tragedy the befell the four climbers on the mountain, dying young on ‘The Murder Wall‘ that is the Eiger’s North Face. One that is frequently affected by devastating storms, leaving climbers both exposed and vulnerable to the rarest elements imaginable.
The mountain foe holds beauty, challenge and danger in equal measures, a sentiment that Years To Perfect encapsulates succinctly in its lyrics. This song has a cameo vocal from Judy Tzuke which is a real pleasure and a treat to hear. Hope In Hell extols the bravery and the foolishness of people who try in vain to conquer The Murder Wall and Victorious tells of the day in July 1938 when the notorious wall was finally beaten by Henrik Harrer, Fritz Kasperk, Ludwig Vorg and Anderl Heckmair. Finally, four brave men have tamed the mountain, bravo!
The Rain Shadow is a brief interlude which, I think, points to the years of the second world war 1939-1945 and to Switzerland’s neutrality and to the absence of further attempts to climb the mountain during those years. Third Man Down opens with an elegant guitar line and is accompanied by a beautiful organ. This lengthy opening section is very compelling leading into the odd tale of the attempt by Adolf Derungs and Lukas Albrecht, two Swiss stonemasons who made their ascent in 1959. Albrecht wore an old overcoat that he threw down the mountain leading to fears that one man had died on the climb. The mystery was solved when they both returned from their climb and were able to explain their actions satisfactorily.
A Silent Drum is about the motivation of a man like John Harlin had when he completed the task that cost his father his life on the Eiger some 40 years previously and how he focused his thoughts and efforts with the goal of succeeding in his aim and letting his actions honour his late father’s memory. The Stormkeeper’s Daughter is about the mountain itself and how it feels about being scaled and how it reacts to these attempts. The track opens on acoustic guitar before becoming more of a band piece, the good dynamics on this piece make it memorable, forming part of The Stormkeeper’s Daughter suite. This also includes the haunting World Before Man section before returning to the A Storekeeper’s Reprise.
Endeavour is a brief instrumental interlude before the epic Mountaineers, which evokes the spirit of the sixties adventurers and its references to a swinging London of those tumultuous years. Hall Of Mirrors concludes the album gracefully with a refrain we have heard earlier in the album
This is a fitting conclusion to an impressive and bold album. There is much here that will appeal to fans of good progressive music, especially to fans of Big Big Train as Kaprekar’s Constant’s historical focus offers a similar style and approach. Three albums in and now the band are venturing out once more and in this album they have a fine platform on which to set forth and have given us a superb album with remarkably interesting lyrics too. I do recommend that you have the lyrics to hand whilst listening as it all falls into place that way. Great songs and playing, lovingly produced with great artwork as well, what is there not to enjoy?
Released 25th March, 2022.
Order the album here:
Kaprekar’s Constant – The Murder Wall CD (talkingelephant.co.uk)