Kaprekar's Constant - The Murder Wall,
As far as the mass media are concerned, prog died in 1976 and by ignoring the current scene they can pretend that is indeed the case. However, for those of us in the know, we continue to be blessed by new bands coming up and releasing material which is simply incredible. Kaprekar’s Constant are a case in point, as their 2017 debut ‘Fate Outsmarts Desire’ just blew me away, and I felt an incredibly close affinity to the band due to the song “Hallsands”, which is about a village falling into the sea where I used to have family. When they followed it up with 2019’s ‘Depth of Field’ I knew here was a very special outfit indeed, and now they are back with their third. As soon as it arrived this was straight on my player, and I sat there with my headphones on, falling into yet another magical world.
We have the same line-up as on the last release, namely David Jackson (VDGG, saxes, flutes, whistles), Mark Walker (drums, percussion), Bill Jefferson (vocals), Dorie Jackson (vocals, BTW, Dorie is David’s daughter and can also be found performing with him on the latest Judge Smith release), Mike Westergaard (piano, keyboards, backing vocals), Al Nicholson (guitars, piano, keyboards) and Nick Jefferson (bass, keyboards). Here we have a concept album, telling stories of climbers attempting the North Face of the Eiger, set between the years of 1935 and 2007, telling the stories of those who attempted one of the most dangerous ascents in mountaineering. Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died, earning it the German nickname Mordwand, literally "murder(ous) wall".
There is so much which makes Kaprekar’s Constant one of the most vibrant and interesting bands around, from the vocal arrangements (and the use of male/female singers), the high use of acoustic instruments, different wind instruments, fretless bass, the complexity of the musical arrangements which can also be delicately simple, the use of space (Mark has time to go for a beer at times as there is no need for percussion throughout, and his not playing is just as important as his playing). On top of that the songs are always wonderful, with so much in them, yet they are always easy to follow with plenty of threads for the listener to pull on. It often feels far more like orchestration than a band, but then we can drop into piano such as on “Third Man Down” or acoustic guitar on “The Rain Shadow” and everything changes.
They are a band which have been welcomed by both the folk and prog crowds, as their music has a great deal in common with both, and rightly so as it is simply beautiful, and at times beautifully simple while at others massively complex yet always with purpose and passion, wrapped up in emotion. It has been a while since I gave the first three albums from any band maximum marks (Spock’s Beard or Galahad perhaps?), and here I am doing it again.