Distant Echoes & Close Encounters

Aurganic

Independent release, 2017

http://www.aurganicmusic.com

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/15/2017

The beginnings of Aurganic’s music were rooted in chillwave, dominated by free-flowing synth-based instrumentals. However, since the band’s 2010 self-titled debut, not only has their style evolved, but their instrumentation has also. Their 2013 release Deviations is the pinnacle of this evolution, incorporating jazz, soul, and progressive rock into songs that are as sophisticated as they are brilliant. Although Distant Echoes... is not a step back compared to Deviations, it is not the kind of follow up-record that one might expect either, as it charts a completely different path.

While the trend in this Toronto-based duo’s music up until Deviations leaned towards exploring more intricate musical styles and compositions, this album is about making things much simpler. Instead of trying out diverse ideas, it has a singular sound. This is a guitar-rock album that takes the band farthest from their synth-based roots.

Aurganic always had a great understanding of pop music, as they successfully weaved in elements of pop in the complex tapestry of their songs, especially on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Deviations. But with the simplicity in the music on Distant Echoes..., the pop elements tend to sound more prosaic than interesting. Tracks where the band sounds the poppiest are also the weakest, such as “Distant Echoes,” “Empires,” and “Levitate.” The combination of melodic guitars, vocals that try super hard to sound earnest, and bland musical composition on these cuts reminds one of annoying alternative pop-rock bands on pop radio.

This record sees the band ditching their custom of bringing in outside guests to handle the singing duties. Instead, all the vocals are performed in-house, specifically by Michael Kossov. Even though Kossov proves to be as able as the other talented vocalists that the band has worked with on their past efforts, his vocals are forgettable on the album’s weaker cuts.

Despite not being a through and through solid disc like their previous, Distant Echoes... has plenty of high points to make for a great album. The opening track “Signs” has an irresistible mix of jazz, pop, and progressive rock. “Porcelain” has a cool head-banging prog-metal instrumental section that is similar to the musical interludes found on Porcupine Tree albums. With its angular guitars, “Meander” is reminiscent of “Southbound,” one of the best songs on Deviations. The duo maintains its tradition of churning out brilliant instrumentals with “Close Encounters,” which is a jazzy and proggy masterpiece. The hiring of drummer Joey Aguirre for this record is a wise move, as his speedy and precise drumming proves very crucial on the disc’s progressive and slightly crazy moments.

“Invincible (In The Shadows)” and “Shaman” are psychedelic and haunting, also reminiscent of Deviations in how elegantly the duo incorporates just the right amount of pop sensibilities to create music that’s accessible and pleasant but not boring.

Distant Echoes... is a formidable effort, despite not being Aurganic’s best. The new guitar-oriented “rock” musical direction certainly suits the band. However, it will help if the duo focused more on the jazz/progressive rock side of this sound rather than the poppy side.

Rating: B+

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