[sic] Magazine

Get Well Soon – Vexations

In 2008, under the name Get Well Soon , the classically-trained multi-instrumentalist Konstantin Gropper let fly his glorious folktronic debut Rest Now, Weary Head! You Will Get Well Soon.

Built on his classical schooling, kitchen-sink enthusiasm and improbable ability to transform Underworld ‘s “Born Slippy” into an understated exercise in alternative singer-songwriting, it aligned him and his group of players alongside Beirut , The Dears and Sufjan Stevens simultaneously. It even took the time to throw in enough swelling arrangements to make Owen Pallett blush, which culminated in the ridiculously high post-rock-influenced mid-point “I Sold My Hands For Food So Please Feed Me”.

Now, fresh from composing the score to Wim Wenders ‘ Palermo Shooting he tables Vexations, an hour-long concept album reputedly based on Stoicism, the Greek philosophy involved with pre-determinism of emotion thanks to behaviour. And it quickly becomes clear that Gropper is aiming for a dose of stoicism himself with the release.

Undoubtedly, Vexations fulfils the intellectual capacity of the Greek doctrine (for instance, name checking the revered oddball Werner Herzog and a peculiar incident when he was shot by an air-rifle during an interview), but Gropper may be a little short on moral compass to fully qualify. How else can he justify such a relatively bland offering in the face of such inspiration and his own catalogue to date?

His formally overblown arrangements are now distinctly fuzzy around the edges, closer to the recent solo efforts and soft patterning of American Music Club ‘s Mark Eitzel than the huge waves of raw emotion he previously delivered. His electronic structures are no longer defiant and monolithic, their clever glitches and overlays give way to pedestrian songcraft, despite the occasional esoteric inclusion as heard on the fairytale-like sample with which the album begins and the operatic flutters that float in uninvited on “Red Nose Day”.

However, Vexations is more mature than its predecessor, showing equally more restraint and more patience. Given the time to digest, the slow waltz of “Nausea” is dignified but otherwise sadly aimless. Similarly, “Seneca’s Silence” (himself a Stoic) is determined. Built on xylophone and large string waves, it nevertheless feels arbitrary failing to be either epic or playful – a conceit symptomatic across all fourteen tracks.

“5 Steps / 7 Swords” is musically strong, drawing on powerful brass and drumming, but is let down by Gropper’s vocal asides. Happily when both come together the effect is much more coherent. Sadly though, “That Love” is decidedly closer to being dirgeful than poignant, and the effective point that “A Voice In The Louvre” has is turgidly delayed so that when it does arrive its impact is lost.

Vexations simply segues into being and then washes to a close. It’s warm, string-heavy and pleasant, but it’s also fairly anonymous. His orchestral suites are bit-part players. Keen to impress they succeed but come watered down. Seemingly undone by the solipsism a regarded debut can bring, Gropper and gang commit the sin of assuming an indulgent and ultimately disappointing follow-up will be met by similar praise.

Vexations is out now on City Slang .