It takes the truly gifted artist, at the exact moment when personal uncertainty is as its peak, to reach within and draw out music both noticeably free from constraints and laser-like in its focus.
Michael Gungor, through the musical collective known simply as Gungor, has achieved just such a work. Setting aside his reliance on what he called “metaphysical constructs I’d known all my life,” Gungor has tapped his considerable musical reserves for a song set simultaneously re- velatory in its lyrical content, ambitious in its sonic scope and compelling in its approachability.
Finally given the opportunity to self-identify, Gungor uses his skills as an accomplished multi- instrumentalist, arranger and producer on “I Am Mountain” to kick off a journey of stories told, some personal, some allegorical, but all honest and forthright.
“There’s that sense of searching, wandering and loss within all these songs,” Michael says. “On the other side of that, there’s a rebirth of hope and life within that. There’s a freedom and em- brace of mystery and the unknown, and finding a joy and childlikeness within that.”
Michael’s path of creative rediscovery allows the tracks on “I Am Mountain” to exist in their own needs, be it the dark east/west musical dichotomy of “The Beat of Her Heart” or the me- lodic hooks of “Long Way Off,” from the galloping synths of “God And Country” to the descent from beauty into deconstruction in “Upside Down.”
Michael shares vocalizations in Gungor with wife Lisa, and together they interact, counter-play and underscore each song’s arc with precision and versatility, be it the plaintive whisper of “Yesternite,” the lost-then-found effect choices made on “Wandering” and ‘70s-era evocation on the chorus of “Let It Go”.
In this age of musical homogeneity, such diversity might be a danger sign. But Gungor’s deft manipulation of such moments piques interest not only in the immediacy of an individual song, but throughout the album’s listening experience as a whole. That variety is most assuredly on purpose.
“I recently had the best meal of my life, an eight-course Japanese/sushi thing,” Michael says, “and just the balance of the plates they’d bring and how they handled each of the flavors after the next to build to something, it was amazing.
“That’s how I wanted to approach this record,” he continues. “To have a palate cleanser when its needed, something easy to go down, a breath for a second when things get too dark or heavy.
“Any good film, meal, symphony, album, whatever, has those kinds of moments that allow you to breathe.”