GungorMountainMore electric, still eclectic - Gungor's I Am Mountain combines beauty, angst and vulnerability.....

I Am Mountain
Artist: Gungor
Label: Hither and Yon
Time: 12 tracks / 49:55

You can't listen to Gungor's I Am Mountain without thinking about Sufjan Stevens and MuteMath. - certainly, there are aural similarities to both. The fragile, vulnerable vocals of Michael Gungor - in particular, the vocal harmony when Michael and Lisa Gungor sing together – certainly recall Sufjan, especially set in the context of the opening moments of the title track, and the frequent use of electronic sound, loops and vocal distortion made me think of MuteMath. Even in a non-musical context, Gungor shares Sufjan's and MuteMath's status as spiritually-aware artists at odds with the Christian music establishment.

I Am Mountain will stand or fall as an artistic statement, but will certainly not pass the 'how many Jesus-mentions per song' test. Lyrically, I Am Mountain is more about life's mysteries, our smallness in the grand scheme of things, and dissatisfaction with this 'upside-down' world... an album that asks more questions than it answers. The poetic lyrics hint at spiritual directions but never hold up a sign-post.

"I'll be here waiting in silence
Waiting for sunlight / To make all the world shine bright
All the stars fall in line / And the seas bow their heads
We remember our dead and we sing another day
As the silence it grows and the worlds fade away
All the sons empty their graves
We will sing another day
We'll sing another day..." - "Finally"

Produced by Michael Gungor, I Am Mountain certainly reaches for a variety of sounds, from stark, moody electronica ("Best Part") to pulsing, distortion-filled rock ("Let it Go") to sophisticated acoustic tunes that sound as if they could have been recorded in a European bistro ("Yesternite"), and even a genuine, old-fashioned protest song disguised as an electric blues, complete with some tasty slide guitar ("God and Country").

For the most part, the songs succeed despite a bit of over-use of techno-tweaking (there's even vocal auto-tuning on one track), although this might be a matter of your own taste. I repeatedly find myself drawn to the really striking acoustic-based tracks featuring Michael's stunning yet subtle guitar playing and more melodic composition. In particular, "The Beat of Her Heart," "Finally," the aforementioned "Yesternite," and the beautiful "Hither and Yon," (essentially an atmospheric instrumental featuring, among other instruments, brushed drums, plucked strings and wordless vocal lines) stand out as having a more 'human' voice than some of the more 'techno' pieces - I would definitely welcome more of that.

Michael Gungor – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, Keys, Percussion, Programming; Lisa Gungor – Vocals, Keys, Synth, Percussion; John Arndt – Piano, Keys, Synth, Wurlitzer, Organ, Percussion; Robert Gungor – Synth, keys, piano; Aaron Sterling – Drums, Percussion; Terrence Clark – Percussion, BGV; Chad Copelin – Bass, Synth Bass, programming; David Gungor – Bass; Cara Fox – Cello, Gang Vocals; Michael Rossback- Gang Vocals; Charla Bultman Gang Vocals; Isaac Roman – Violin, Gang Vocals

I Am Mountain is an artistic work that succeeds more often than not but ultimately feels perhaps a bit joyless and like something that Michael Gungor needed to get out of his system. The vulnerability here is admirable and the material is often brilliant and only occasionally marred by too much electronic tampering. An interesting effort by a group and artist that has much to say, musically and otherwise.


Bert Saraco

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