Get Well Soon - The Scarlet Beast O’Seven Heads
By: Rob Gannon
Despite commanding all an orchestra has to offer with consummate precision and running free with Stoicism by way of a concept, German multi-instrumentalist Konstantin Gropper struggled to raise most of his sophomore collection Vexations above string-heavy and pedestrian songcraft. The same could not be said of the glorious but patchy folktronic debut – an album that drew worthy comparison with The Dears and Sufjan Stevens – so it is with cautious hope that we approach The Scarlet Beast O’Seven Heads.
Gropper’s kitchen-sink, anything-goes approach of 2008 was arguably erased by the arrival of the sophisticated but bland Vexations, and The Scarlet Beast is again a noticeably mature collection that, for example, opens with a sombre strain of folk-waltz before quickly jumping headfirst into a stirring instrumental and then onto an epic arrangement centred on rolling drums entirely appropriate for a track called “The Last Days Of Rome”.
His classical training never in doubt, Gropper further displays his mental dexterity with a strong ode to the mainstream film director Roland Emmerich – a track that veers between smoky mood music and choral choruses. This is followed up by a chattering exercise in analogue synths that act as an homage to electronic composer Wendy Carlos. Then there’s the romantic swelling, switching tempos of “Just Like Henry Darger”, which recounts certain parts of his outsider sci-fi manuscript The Story of the Vivian Girls before concluding with a bonkers assembly of female backing vocals.
Though there’s still time to shoehorn in the playful Fantasia of the very literal “Disney” (its overt similarities with the compositions of Owen Pallett and all), other extracts edge towards disappointment. In spite of its dark interjections of Casio keys, “The Kids Today” isn’t as inventive as it thinks it is. “A Gallows” gets lost in a cul-de-sac of quick-fire drums and unfortunately “Oh My! Good Heart” is also anonymous save for its affectingly mournful chorus.
Hiding however at The Scarlet Beast‘s end is “You Cannot Cast Out The Demons (You Might As Well Dance)” in which Gropper loses the weight of classical adornment to wholly return to form. Adopting a noir sample from the 1964 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Marnie, splicing it with peculiar twangs and a determined beat, then more choral backing and layers of harp, it explodes at its close with Arcade Fire-grade enthusiasm and it’s all a really rather fine conclusion to this busy and highly idiosyncratic world.
Get Well Soon would seem to be on the mend.
Advised downloads: “The Last Days Of Rome” and “You Cannot Cast Out The Demons (You Might As Well Dance)”.
The Scarlet Beast O’Seven Heads is out now on City Slang.