Unlike many albums, the title track “I Am Mountain” starts off the album. Syncopated piano dissonance gives way to 80's synth pop and Michael Gungor's airy alto, complimented by his wife, Lisa's beautiful harmonies. They open up in a soaring wordless vocal chorus that becomes an anthem of hope and declaration. The music video is a wonderful expression of the song and is a perfect compliment.
The second track “Beat of Her Heart” is a mysterious surprise that drops you right in the middle of a spaghetti western reminiscent of the best Ennio Morricone scores. Complete with ethereal whistling, distant male chants, finger cymbals, and electric lead guitar, beautiful strains of classical acoustic guitar set the pace, which Gungor is so masterfully known for. Elemental percussion and mysterious moans add to the backdrop for the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with melodies based on a solo piano piece written by fellow collaborator John Arndt. “Long Way Off” is a steady, pulsing narrative, with a melody that reminded me of other male falsettos like Gotye. A steady monochromatic synth is joined by snare, electric and acoustic guitar, with a whimsical, piano melody.
One of the things that drew me to Gungor was their fearless, unabashed creativity. Of course, continually pushing those creative boundaries will eventually reach the limits of even die hard fans such as myself. The next song is the first of two on this album that drive me crazy as a musician! “Wandering” would have been a beautiful song, with a low brass choir, sparse piano, and a steady slow jazz-like trap set keeping time. Lisa Gungor's soaring solo voice would have been a treat to behold and a highlight on the album, had it not been adulterated by the aberration that is Autotune. So disappointing and I hope this song is remixed at some point without it, but having the artistic integrity that Gungor has, I won't hold out hope.
“Let It Go” is a synth pop fan's dream and very catchy and fun to listen to. “Wayward and Torn” is a gritty, groovy, regrettably short song with steel slide guitar, harmonica, and wonderfully wide harmonies. “God and Country” leads with a low techno beat, gradually joined by slap-stick percussion and suddenly supplanted by blaring lead guitar and strummed electric chords. A wonderfully unexpected whip crack introduces bongo drums simulating a gallop and Lisa's filtered vocals open up a wild ride! Pulsing steel guitar and more whip cracks keep driving the song seemingly faster and faster, like a gang of bandits running from the law.
I could go on about the next four songs, but they speak for themselves because they are very reminiscent of previous Gungor albums, but no less brilliant. The last track, “Upside Down,” is a fitting end to the album, both meandering and slowly climactic, as the best Gungor songs are. Half way through, just when you have been swept away by the wandering, overlapping musical phrases, a new slow chordal progression is introduced, slowly building into a synthetically orchestral fury out of an old 80's sci fi movie. Unfortunately, it goes too far, collapsing into an un-listenable cacophony of noise that eventually peters out with unintelligible spoken voices underneath. I'm sure there is a very artistic and maybe even theological reason for this, but from an entertainment standpoint, they could have done without the last minute and a half :)
Overall, I would call this album a success in a long line of beautifully creative albums and I hope to some day see these songs live. If you get a chance, check out their live album “A Creation Liturgy” for a taste of what their live shows are like.