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Kaprekar’s Constant: Depth Of Field

The second album, Depth Of Field, from Kaprekar’s Constant appeared in 2019 but with their recent ‘lockdown EP’ Meanwhile… being my first impressive encounter with the band, delving into the past felt like the only logical thing to do. That too is a speciality of this band, with a wide and varied selection of historical happenings investigated across Depth Of Field. Some of these events may be set around well known histories but most shine a light on more idiosyncratic events that will be completely fresh to the listener, or at least so it proved for me.

Built round the core of singer Bill Jefferson, bassist, guitarist and keyboard player Nick Jefferson, keyboard master Mike Westergaard and man of many guitars (and a keyboard) Al Nicholson, that this outfit can call on the talents of Van der Graaf Generator sax/flute/whistles specialist David Jackson, Camel drummer Mark Walters and Francis Dunnery singer Dorie Jackson should leave little doubt of what a class act we’re dealing with.

The comment that I made towards the band’s recent stripped back EP was that the songs it contained were "remarkably poised and sedate, with only little nuances and movements altering as they sweep over you. It’s an effective and enveloping way to get a message across and as a newcomer to the band, rather intoxicating”. With Depth Of Field you can multiply those effects by 10 and then some. In terms of instrumentation and arrangement, this full album is, understandably, much more all encompassing, with a further reaching sound matching the ambitious song themes quite magnificently.

Arguably the main set piece(s) is the two part “Rosherville” suite, the tale of a town built to attract London’s thrill seekers in Victorian times initially finding the resort town booming, before quickly becoming a bypass for the train obsessed holidaymakers as they searched farther afield. A tragic ship sinking in the town’s bay ripped the heart from the place and pretty much caused it to cease to be. However, here the location is brought to life once more, only to be dashed again as the tragedies within the song unfold to a backing of soothing melodies, tight vocals and bold arrangements. That Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull can be found reciting a poem at the song’s conclusion adds yet more intrigue. Not to be outdone, “Ghost Planes” takes us to the remoteness of the Second World War and the pilotless doodlebug bombs that flew from continental Europe to England’s capital with devastating effect. That the music is both beautiful and melancholic somehow makes the whole experience ever more heart wrenching than the lyrics themselves could ever be, and those words paint a vivid picture on their own. As seems to be this band’s calling card, the sum is always greater than the parts, and even with talent like David Jackson on show, the musicianship is given room to shine but always within the tight framework of the song itself.

It’s possibly “White Star’s Sunrise” that shines the strongest light on Kaprekar’s Constant’s historical masterclasses, where new knowledge is garnered in a tremendously engaging manner. Here, it’s the life of three sister ships that’s examined and while the middle of the trio, Titanic, is well known, the fates of her floating relations is not so renown, although maybe they should be… It’s Jefferson and Dorie Jackson who take centre stage as they swirl this floating story into life, but as with a lot of this band’s output, little spoken word recordings that embellish the facts are possibly the most grounding moments to be found.

The track that gave the album its name closes things out, the Depth Of Field being referred to that of a friend who carried a camera wherever he went and documented the life and times of the acquaintances who accompanied him. That the man creating these snapshots of personal history is no longer with us, but his images still remain, is the lament that’s presented with some pinpricks of joy and appreciation along the way. And it’s this masterful combining of musical and lyrical emotions that really proves Kaprekar’s Constant’s bedrock.

Depth Of Field does take a little while to truly clarify into focus and some comparisons to Big Big Train go beyond fleeting in both style and ideal, but in the end classy, well constructed music will always win through. This album is crammed with exactly that and as such deserves much more acclaim than has so far come its way.

Track Listing
1. Rosherville Part I
2. Holywell Secret
3. Ghost Planes
4. The Nightwatchman
5. White Star’s Sunrise
6. Rosherville Part II
7. Depth Of Field

Added: February 3rd 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Kaprekar's Constant @ bandcamp
Hits: 628
Language: english

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