Gungor is quite controversial in the Christian music world (as is any artist, daring anything beyond the same Psalms over a generic four-chord progression). Comprised of husband and wife duo Michael and Lisa Gungor, the band has accomplished an incredible amount including Grammy nominations and world tours, yet somehow slipped under the radar of most music fans. Which is truly a travesty.
Gungor is possibly one of the most creative, original, and powerful artists I’ve heard in a long time, counting both Christian and secular music. Their first song I heard was “Us For Them,” which is about how focusing on our divisions can keep us from loving others the way God intended.
(For the record, that’s not to say we shouldn’t stand for something, but we shouldn’t let our ideals and beliefs keep us from showing God’s love even to our enemies.)
Straight from their website, Gungor describes the “One Wild Life” trilogy as follows: “One Wild Life is a trilogy of three albums–Soul, Spirit, and Body. Many people use language like this as though to divide reality into different parts or even different realities entirely. This project is an exploration of the idea that language like “soul, spirit and body” are simply different ways of seeing the same single reality—this one wild life. One Wild Life is a remembrance of how holy and sacred this life we’ve been given is. It’s the effort to open the human heart wider.”
Musically speaking, Gungor definitely leans toward the more ambient, experimental side of things. But as songs like “Walking With Our Eyes Closed” and “Free” show, the band is far from a one-trick pony and has much to offer for fans of almost any genre.
.01 Birth: “Birth” slowly brings us into the album in a signature Gungor style – raw, lyrically honest, and melodically beautiful. Most bands tend to draw from a specific school of influence – usually classical or blues, sometimes jazz – and this song has a very clear classical influence on the hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitar.
.02 Step Into The Light: The first thing I noticed about this song was how rough and unpolished it sounded. It’s exactly like a demo somebody recorded in their room, rather than in a professional studio… which, as it turns out, is exactly the case. The duo posted on Facebook that they purposefully recorded “Step Into the Light” in a single take, with one microphone placed in the center of the room to accomplish a raw feel. The song continues with the mellow, dreamy quality.
.03 Ego: Here the duo picks up their style a little bit. “Ego” is very electronic and percussive, not quite energetic enough to fit on mainstream radio but definitely something you’d expect to hear from a modern indie band. Use of strings and dissonant chords help create a tension to reflect the topic of the song (the selfish nature of human ego).
04. Alien Apes: “Alien Apes” is probably not going to be everyone’s song. Musically, it’s a very exciting song: percussive, excellent use of harmonies, a cool sounding distortion. However, there are very clear references to evolution – if only as an artist concept to make a point – that not all Christians will agree with. There’s a good message to be had, if one can allow the band some artist license and move past it, though.
.05 Already Here: Quiet and percussive, yet melodic and energetic, this song is an excellent snapshot of what Gungor brings to the table. Excellent use of post-production effects like synthetic drums, strings, and vocal processing. Truly a fun song to listen to.
.06 Walking With Our Eyes Closed: The lead single from the album, this song is a personal favorite of mine. Very pop, very energetic, showcasing catchy melodies, high energy, and complex lyrics about the way we go through living without really seeing life for what it is.
.07 Breath Within Breath: Slow, quiet, and percussive. This song features some unusual rhythm patterns, along with introspective lyrics from Michael.
.08 Lovely Broken: This song really appealed to my inner minimalist with a very small approach to the song: very ambient and very simple in it’s construction. “Lovely Broken” explores a theme of finding beauty in broken things, a theme that personally means a lot to me. We’re all broken and those experiences can be used by God for good things if we let him, so this song really hit home for me.
.09 Free: “Free” is a really cool song, because it has a bit of an R&B bounce to it with a dash of soul. If you’re a casual mainstream music listener, this is definitely the song I would recommend to you. As the title suggests, the song explores themes of how God sets us all free through a relationship with him.
.10 Be The Love: “Be The Love” is another staple Gungor song – ambient, mellow, and experimental… but picking up as it goes. This song encourages us to be the change we want in the world, see the beauty all around us, and be the love we want to see.
.11 To Live In Love: The only thing I really have to say about this song is how ambient it is. It’s extremely quiet, mellow, and dreamy.
.12 Tree: I loved “Tree” instantly. Very ambient, bass-heavy, but melodic and thoughtful. With a dash of classical inspiration in some of the progressions, this deep and powerful song really captured my attention. Fans of more ambient, mellow artists such as This Will Destroy You will probably like this song.
.13 Universe: This song is another one of my favorites. The first thing jumping out at me was the Middle Eastern-type sound and scale. I also noticed some of the unusual polyrthymic-styled percussion. Gungor really outdid themselves on this one. It’s so progressive and yet so catchy, with lyrics that deliver too. “Don’t limit me to categories” says Michael in the chorus, talking about how sometimes labels serve only to box us in and we should be careful to remember that we’re all more than that. Further in the song, the feel completely changes into a very bluesy guitar. Definitely recommend “Universe” for fans of more eclectic styles.
.14 The Great Homesickness: Very acoustic and mellow. I wonder if this song is directed at Heaven or other places that feel like home on earth. It’s very short though, and speaks only of a longing for somewhere you longer are. Very thought provoking.
.15 The End: This is another song that has so much going on. Starting with a beautiful, mellow acoustic guitar and building into some orchestral horns, the song is very eclectic. Later on, there’s a distinct Gregorian chant-quality to some of the progressions. Ironically, the final outro reminds me of an orchestra tuning before a performance. The most interesting part to me was how unresolved it all felt. Unlike most albums that would sum up with a consonant root note giving the album a feeling of closure, this one just drifts away into chaotic (but still enjoyable) ambiance. I think there’s a lot to be taken away from that.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for a new, fresh take on Christian music with a raw message, look no further. If you're looking for something more than your average four chords, this is the album for you. Even though this album may not be everyone's cup of tea, you should at least check out the singles.