Music

Second Storey: Margosa Heights

Al Tourettes' rebirth as Second Storey for Fabric’s in-house Houndstooth label sees the artist create a dense, alien world filled with all types of sonic oddballs, dark themes, BBC Radiophonic Workshop-inspired atmospherics and an unparalleled knowledge of genre and ideas from the last 20 or so years of UK dance music evolution.


Second Storey

Margosa Heights EP

Label: Houndstooth
US Release Date: 2013-07-01
UK Release Date: 2013-06-24
Amazon
iTunes

Alec Storey's (Second Storey) debut release, Margosa Heights, on arguably this year’s breakthrough UK label -- the Rob Booth-curated, Fabric in-house label Houndstooth--is a deep journey into a re-imagined future, where bass music and electronica meet to form something much more than the sum of its parts.

Margosa Heights is a gloomy steampunk version of the electronic music Warp Records was peddling in the early '90s under the label’s Artificial Intelligence banner. Yet instead of taking its influences from the warm fuzzy glow of post-rave culture and the druggy hedonism that ecstasy provided when it first landed on British shores, the EP is instead informed by the more nocturnal themes associated with human nature: corruption, repression and an inherent fear of advanced/alien technology.

Whereas his music under the Al Tourette’s moniker was a swampy yet fun take on dancefloor bass techno at a time when his long time collaborators Bloc were turning heads on the UK festival scene, and dubstep was ruling the roost as a credible form of underground UK dance music (a period that saw the artist find favour with Mary Anne Hobbs when she was in charge of the seminal BBC Radio 1 Experimental Show as well as important UK labels such as Apple Pops, Aus Music, Baselogic and Hypercolour offshoot Sneaker Social Club) his rebirth as Second Storey fully embraces the dark, detailed aesthetic that the Houndstooth label is fashioning for itself as we speak.

The EP kicks things off with the dense "Arpy Gables" which, after a long BBC Radiophonic Workshop-inspired intro, reveals itself to be a bastardized morphing of 2-step garage and Flying Lotus-inspired wonk. Skippy, layered rhythms--that on occasion fall from the grid--combine with analogue edged sound effects; subdued cannon blasts; the implied arpeggiated synth lines of the title; deep, droney sub bass pressure and high pitched melodic elements that dip and dive out of focus, ensuring that multiple listens are required to take in the full mastery of detail that Storey has imbued his tracks with. The track is definitely not an exercise of restraint which, in a day and age that seems to revel in minimalism, makes the whole thing fresh and exciting without resorting to pandering to the lowest common denominator.

"Still Seas/Just Mortal" continues where "Arpy Gables" left off -- surging, deep and concentrated, yet uncluttered, sci-fi atmospherics combining with speedy, swung half-step garage rhythms and experimental neurofunk bass modulations. It is the stand out track of the EP, harboring an upfront, yet progressive, techno-laced aggressive edge with both its drum and synth work. It is hallucinogenic, spacey and weird, hiding loads of strange sonic anomalies and sound effects for listeners to delight in time and time again.

The titular "Margosa Heights" tones down the controlled feeling of menace that lurks just out of sight under the sea of murky atmospherics that proceeded it, settling down into a languid 120bpm bounce of muffled kicks, flammed wooden blocks, strange, flappy bass tones and emotive harmonic and melodic work that all somehow mesh together to form the most "musical" moments on the EP.

Bringing the tempo down even further is the EP closer "Hebridean Mind Tours", an amalgamation of techno and experimental hip hop centering around the loop manipulation techniques made famous by the minimal techno scene of the mid-2000s. It revels in the build-up and release of tension, subtlety shifting the mood and perspective of the listener throughout the track, in the process showing the daring and confidence that Storey has obviously grown into in the period leading up to his signing to Houndstooth.

All things said, this EP is not going to set dancefloors around the world on fire, but then I am guessing that was never the intention. Its running length in effect makes this EP a mini album, with its cogent, focused sound palette indicating the composer's desire to perhaps move into the world of sound tracking in the future. Dare I say it, but I consider this release almost as a concept EP: the tracks fade into each other like a classic prog-rock album from the '70s, making the whole listening experience immersive and exciting in equal measures, and -- as already mentioned -- primed for repeat listens. I am pretty sure Second Storey will make a full album, and when he does I will be waiting in the wings with glee. Margosa Heights is well-thought out and executed as well as being daring but without pushing the boundaries of genre so far as to alienate its potential audience. It is a fine way to relaunch a musical career that was perhaps hampered in the past by expectations of a certain type of sound. Welcome to the Houndstooth party Mr. Tourettes. Long may your partnership prosper.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.