There are many great works of art that come in sets of three. The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars trilogies both come to mind. A common trend for such trios is that the final installment is the most grandiose and cosmic in structure, and Gungor's latest effort proves to be no different. One Wild Life: Body is the collective's most ambitious, sprawling project to date, and it provides a fitting conclusion to the innovative One Wild Life album cycle.
Gungor's typical genre-melding tendencies are further accentuated within the 15 tracks of this album, allowing for everything from gypsy jazz to classical guitar to African melodies to orchestral arrangements to be put on display. Although this means that there is enough here for anyone to appreciate, the expansive creative ground that husband and wife duo Michael and Lisa cover comes at the cost of musical cohesion throughout the album; one might suspect that this overreach is a side effect of creating three albums within the span of a year. Having 15 eclectic songs on the tracklist also makes the album feel unnecessarily bloated. Perhaps relegating a couple of the more bland songs (ideally "Walking With Our Eyes Closed" and "Free") to bonus tracks on a deluxe solution would have been a viable solution. However, the prevailing sound of blending acoustic instrumentation with electronic synths is able to provide a semblance of unity to keep the listener attentive.
Fortunately, Gungor's songwriting capability does not suffer in any way on this album. Every production decision, be it the binary mood changes in "Lovely Broken" or the stripped-down vulnerability of "The Great Homesickness," is incredibly intentional in how it fits within the song. Above all else, this aspect is what Gungor has done better here than on any of their previous efforts - every song is a gem in its own right. Thematically, this album completes the year-long analysis of the different components of humanity by focusing on issues that relate to the body. The development of hubris on "Ego" ("Arbitrating precisely who I am / A thousand judges click their gavels") and the critique of body-shaming on "Tree" ("Did the tree of life divorce its body? / Seek to save its soul but hate the bark?") are both handled with graceful poetry that persists throughout the lyrics of the rest of the album as well.
Amidst the wide musical range and the discourse on the body, Gungor also provides a narrative of a human life throughout each of these tunes. From the inquisitive questions at "Birth" to the unsettling answers present at "The End," this album purposefully comes full circle and provides the listener with a satisfying sense of wholeness. The numerous nods to the previous two One Wild Life albums make this offering much more enjoyable within the context of the 3-album cycle, but like any proper finale to a trilogy, Body provides faithful fans with the gratification of a journey that has come to a competent end.JFH Reader Review: Review date: 2/1/17, written by Mason Haynie for Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Hither & Yon Records
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