Gungor shows listeners “Body”

“One Wild Life” comes to a passionately austere conclusion.

Maxwell Heilman, Writer

Six years after making “Beautiful Things,” every hipster worship leader’s favorite song, Gungor completes the most ambitious project of their existence. Michael and Lisa Gungor began their trilogy of albums — titled “One Wild Life” — in August 2015 with “Soul” and followed up with “Spirit” this past March.

innovative minimalism

Both of these albums saw husband and wife reach musical heights only glimpsed in 2013’s “I Am Mountain,” throwing orthodoxies out the window as they pushed the limits of Christian music both in music and in lyrics. The release of “Body” on the last day of September brings the journey to a strong close by furthering the innovative minimalism flowing out of the previous two.

“Body” caps off the existential manifesto presented by “One Wild Life,” as exemplified in both their music and their lyrics. “Birth” literally fades in from with the reversed sounds of “Spirit’s” final moments, but something different exudes from the song right from the start. Gungor tackles harsh realities in this album from the resolute perspective outlined over two albums. “Body” dissects the physical plane — in all of its hideous beauty — from the perspective of those inaugurated into God’s kingdom.

Clocking in longer than the 55-minute and 44-minute predecessors, this hour-long album requires attention and immersion for full appreciation. The general flow of previous albums remains, but Gungor’s chameleon-like stylistic choices continue to throw listeners for a loop.

Real instruments co-mingle with electronic variations with unexpected brilliance. Jack White-esque guitar licks and a gospel choir on the same album should not work, but Michael and Lisa somehow pull it off. The results yielded by their efforts toward breaking out of the confines of contemporary Christian music, defy labels and provoke thought.

Despite such astounding variety, “Body” retains organization through steadfast rhythmic infrastructure and vocal interplay. No matter what direction the album goes in, syncopated beats and distinctive melodies shine through ingeniously orchestrated songs.

a truly gratifying experience

Indeed, many of these tracks are driven by percussion and vocals, with tonal instruments only providing dynamics. The projective singing and funky groove of “Breath Within the Breath” brings an otherwise boring song to life, while harmonised voices support “Lovely Broken” until its climax. However, in the case of “Free,” vocal, rhythmic and compositional flare combine for one of the most emotional vamps of the record.

If nothing else, “Body” proves that Gungor simply cannot stop creating. Every single song on this album has a completely unique flavor, and merits no comparisons to previous recordings. One can hear general similarities with modern indie luminaries, but their approach remains entirely their own. Every beat differs from the next, every composition has a trick up its sleeve and every lyric penetrates to the core.

Although many songs on this track exude the positive vibe Gungor gained notoriety for, this album features some of their more somber moments. The title of “To Live In Love” might read sunnily, but the track’s layers of resonant brass and strings create a hypnotic crescendo — pleading for the love of humanity.

The aptly titled “The End’s” exploration of the horrors of mortality and what awaits on the other side provides an emotional rollercoaster like none other. Orchestral melodrama and striking intimacy collide in an unexpected, yet fitting conclusion to Gungor’s best album yet. “Body” addresses the the physical plain with spirituality intact, bestowing a truly gratifying experience upon all who put their minds to it.

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