Album Review
Aurganic - Deviations Album Cover

Aurganic - Deviations

Reviewed by
Aurganic Deviations
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Record Label: Self-Released
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Aurganic, a new alt-rock/electronic duo whose two members hail, respectively, from Toronto and New York City, lists bands like Muse and Radiohead in its RIYL section, bands of worldwide renown who know how to balance larger-than-life ambition with delicate intimacy and roaring intensity. And indeed, from the first moments of Aurganic’s first full-length record, a dark collision of sound called Deviations, it sounds like the band is out to make a sprawling stadium rock record. The track, “Choices,” kicks off with a wall of ambient sound which feels perfectly like the sort of fertile sonic ground that could easily beget screeching guitar solos and anthemic choruses. In reality, the song sounds more like a brooding emo rock gem, with guest vocalist Joel Goguen singing like he’s found himself in the middle of a Something Corporate record (picture “Down” from that band’s North). It’s the first surprise on an album that subverts expectations at nearly every turn.

Another early surprise is the fact that the two songs that follow “Choices” sound nothing like the opener (and nothing like each other, either). “Waking Trials” plays out like a pile-driving modern rock tune, with vocals that sound like Incubus—from Scott Carruthers, yet another guest vocalist—and a number of math-rock tempo changes that keep the song interesting. “Lucid,” meanwhile, earns its title with a gorgeous electro-pop arrangement and a steady clip-clap-tick-tock drum machine beat that add delicately to the song’s dreamy 1990s feel. Shoegazey Smashing Pumpkins, circa 1998's divisive Adore, is arguably the finest parallel for this winterish slow burn of a track.

Those first three songs effectively and ingeniously establish a mission statement for Deviations by not establishing a mission statement at all. There is no uniformity between the tracks: they sound like the could have all been drawn from different records, by different bands, at different times. While this dichotomy is jarring, it’s also what keeps Deviations on firm ground as an interesting release and Aurganic alive as a compelling musical project. Perhaps it’s because of the flip-flopping musical styles, or maybe because each different vocalist draws an entirely different sound from the band, but this record ends up playing more like a compilation or an uber-hip indie pop mixtape than it does like an actual cohesive album. Goguen’s guest tracks strike ground somewhere between Abandoned Pools and M83, while Carruthers is a more straightforward modern rock singer who is nonetheless skilled at adding a touch of intimacy to his work during quieter moments. For instance, The first half of “The Lost and Found” pairs Carruthers, singing in a low register, with a distant and desolate back-up part, all over a chugging jazz-esque rhythm. There’s even a track with a female singer, a jazz-pop number called easy, where vocalist Jessica Stuart does her best at sounding like balladic singer/songwriter, Sia.

All of the different styles somehow coalesce into project that is rarely less than engrossing, but one which also overstays its welcome by a significant margin. None of the singers are particularly great—though their limitations add to the organic, mixtape feel of the disc—and while all of the free-form instrumental sections are exquisitely well-played (see the cinematic electric guitar landscapes and synth-blast piano ballet of album closer, “Deviations”), it’s hard not to feel like the album could stand to lose three or four tracks. As someone who tends to appreciate concision over boundless ambition in full-length records—especially debuts—Deviations, at nearly an hour in length and with songs that are often dense and challenging, will probably never be an album I love. With that said, there are some solid moments here, and I am always intrigued by a band that can change directions so many times on a single disc. Suffice to say that album titles are rarely more apt than this one, but Aurganic are a band to watch precisely because they use every deviation as an opportunity to display their versatile and plentiful musical strengths.

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06:54 AM on 10/14/13
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Great review.

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