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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

“Aurganic” is a rather curious portmanteau: ‘Au’, as in the chemical symbol for gold, would suggest a metallic sheen, while ‘organic’ infers the opposite, a rough grainy quality. However, it only took a few minutes of the opening track “Choices” to determine where Deviations lies on the spectrum of sound quality. Deviations is a crystal clear, high definition transmission from the New York/Toronto-based duo, and this is perhaps the most immediate quality of the album. It makes for many lovely little production touches, like the bongo drums on “Single Motion Sound” and the multi-layered vocals of “Outcast”. You can be guaranteed a pleasant listen, if nothing else.

Aurganic’s sound is best described as alternative rock with an electronic edge, which rather inevitably draws a parallel with Radiohead. It’s a worthy comparison, but it becomes problematic if you were to cross-examine the works of these two bands; as would be expected Deviations fails to reach the high points of Kid A or Hail to the Thief, and its low points are below those aforementioned albums, but this is hardly anything to dwell on. Ceilings are raised from the moment the Radiohead comparison is made, and since primo Radiohead is an elusive force for most artists to aspire to, it would be unfair to judge Deviations in such an isolated manner.

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A more valid criticism of this record is the sometimes patchy songwriting. “Lucid” is the worst offender; the programmed beat and guitars are a little languid and dreary, and the whole song seems thinly spread, a blur of ideas with no defining qualities shining through. It passes by without making any real impact, and although I may be missing the point of the track – it is called “Lucid” after all – there’s nothing that appeals to me in the sonic textures or the lyrics, and it has to go down as a missed opportunity in the grand scheme of the album.

Fortunately, there are plenty of highlights elsewhere that make up for the colourlessness that sometimes plagues the listening experience. The penultimate track “Southbound” is extremely well-paced, and while it would be a stretch to say that it’s brimming with energy, it’s hardly uneventful across its 7 or so minutes. The aforementioned opener “Choices” is a fantastic choice of track to front the record, with a distorted guitar underpinning proceedings, a subtle, skittering beat, and a nice vocal contribution courtesy of Joel Goguen; it’s definitely one of the more alert moments in the musical arc of the album.

Deviations impresses more than it falters, but sometimes even its greatest strength can hinder it: it feels overproduced and sterile in places, but this could also be down to the occasionally all-too-safe songwriting. In spite of any elemental sounds suggested by the group’s chosen title, Aurganic have a cleanly-produced, glistening statement in Deviations, with plenty in the way of interesting song structures and instrumentation to go along with the crisp production. It’s a worthy sophomore release, that hints at the promise of greater things to come.

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