In true Prog Rock fashion, Kaprekar’s Constant tackles a mighty concept – the conquest of the Eiger.
Release Date: 25th March 2022
Label: Talking Elephant
Format: digital / CD / vinyl (incoming)
“Death stalks them all, Upon the murder wall.“
Kapreka’s Constant return (we really enjoyed their Depth Of Field album …and more) with a rigorous concept album where Nick Jefferson chronicles six stories of attempts to climb the North Face of the Eiger. One of mountaineering’s most difficult challenges, it’s captured in their own attempt at gaining the musical peak. We’re invited to take a seat on the terrace of the Kleine Scheidegg; a telescope trained on the various assaults to observe their triumphs and tragedies.
For anyone with a climbing bent or who enjoys the spirit and the thrill of outdoor adventuring, The Murder Wall is fascinating. Joe Simpson would be proud. Himself a veteran of several unsuccessful attempts on the Eiger, his The Beckoning Silence chronicles a similar take and was one of the texts that drew me (fear of heights notwithstanding) into the vicarious experience of mountaineering thrill-seeking and the urge to go where no man has been.
Once again Dave Jackson adds his legendary sax to the Kaprekar’s Constant collective and there’s an appearance by Judy Tzuke to look forward to as we engage with the prologue where the icy chill of the “Death stalks them all, Upon the murder wall,” lines are given a melodic veneer and the charm of the two voices sets the scene.
The album flows through different sections – songs, if you will – devoted to those six attempts on the summit, heralded by the prologue and, given the subject matter, a most melodic and friendly overture (Main Theme – Hall Of Mirrors) complete with Jackson solo. Before you know it, we’re travelled back to 1935 with Mehringer and Sedlmayer and a sense of the familiar Kaprekar’s pastorality (with a touch of Anderson’s rustic Tullness) applied to a new picture. The “tall tales by firelight” line evoking those acts of herosm and bravery, success and failure together with the sheer bloodymindedness and almost foolhardy single mindedness that drives these men.
In contrast to the toils, trials and tribulations, (“Nothing that’s easy is ever worthwhile“) the soundtrack is airy and overwhelmingly positive. Check the the bright Penny Lane whistle (?) that pipes over the close of on Another Man’s Smile and any Kaprekar’s fans will nod sagely at the neverending array of bright melodies. Having nailed those colours to e mast, the sobriety immediately kicks in on Years To Perfect where Judy Tzuke adds an elegant and stately presence. Added to the “seems like hope in hell has gone” section, it provides a sombre reminder of the task in hand.
Turning the tables, the first conquest in 1938 is celebrated on Victorious with a rallying clarion call and with a triumphant instrumental part with some widely synth and wind as the gateway is opened to more remarkable ascents. painted in a wash of musical colour. Educational too as we learn of the Swiss conquest by two climbers in what the rescue teams these days never mind back then, would call highly inappropriate clothing. Like they were. out for a gentle stroll. Musically it’s a gentle stroll too that defies the achievement. It makes way for a personal favourite part of the album: the gentle sway that links Third Man Down to A Silent Drum; the latter also marking an emotional highpoint as son returns to succeed where father fell, and he’s asked “Can you pass that place on the Eiger’s face?“
The celebration and glory gives further way to reflection in The Stormkeeper’s Daughter section that flows through a series of passages, themes revisited and with snippets that return to uplift in true progressive fashion courtesy of some Jackson parts that float across the top of the mix (while adding to the growing list of ‘favourite parts’)…to which you can add the short dcoda that is Endeavour.
The Mountaineers/Hall Of Mirrors combo ensures a suitably epic conclusion. A slow build that climaxes in a grand orchestral/string glory of reaching their goal. And so, an enthralling listen comes to a close. It’s been a breathless adventureNo point is laboured, the songs don;t hang around needlessly and there’s a continued appeal in following the journey in one entity.
In their own words, Kaprekar’s Constant have planted their flag high and painted their colours in the sky. The Murder Wall is another carefully crafted release; you wouldn’t expect anything else.