I Am Love just released a self-titled album which reflects their personal tastes in music: the psychedelic; the Vaudevillian; a little Seattle grunge; and what, for lack of a better term, is called theatrical rock. At the present juncture, the band comprises, fronted by Joshua Christopher on vocals, guitars and chorded zither (AKA guitar-zither). Vaguely reminiscent of the kind of instrument the Bible's King David played, the zither introduces a unique sound, one not normally associated with rock bands. Will Whitmire plays bass and banjo, while Kris Jackson on percussion, keyboards and vocals.
An earlier edition of the band included seven members, but due to a clash of artistic vision over the direction the band wanted to take, Christopher decided to clean house. He kept Whitmire and dispersed the rest, later adding Jackson to the mix. Along with the change in personnel came a change in the band's sound, going from folk rock to a more expansive psychedelic-progressive-rock expression. Imagine a hybridization of Emerson Lake and Palmer, with King Crimson and Queen.
As Christopher put it, "Before with the larger band it more energy to construct the right sounds at the right moments. Now we just dive into any riff or lick that sounds good, and develop it into a soaring moment that comes from the distinctiveness of each of our styles." In other words, artistically speaking less is more, especially when it comes to composing music.
The first track on I Am Love is "Pillar of Salt," which might be the best track on the album. It's a glitzy, brass-filled, quasi-psychedelic tune that tells the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah from the perspective of Sodom. Initially, a falsetto voice arches over the music, like a rainbow but as the song progresses, a bright tenor replaces the falsetto. Ultimately, the song resembles a power melody performed by Steve Winwood if he was fronting Emerson Lake and Palmer.
"Balance" and "Ghost in the Hallway" reverberate with dramatic, almost over-the-top bass that supports the blanketing cotton candy keyboards. The weakest track on the album is "Swiftness," which, like its title, punches rapidly ahead. Unfortunately, it sounds like psychedelic blue-grass, as though Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs had opted for electrified, amplified Les Pauls instead of their usual instruments.
Unfortunately, the vocals on I Am Love are overshadowed by the music. Probably because the vocals - although passable - are bereft of the kind of innovation needed to push them to the forefront. Nevertheless, the musical arrangements and the musicianship more than compensate for those deficiences. Musically, I Am Love resonates with passion and joy.
I Am Love is more than a respectable album; it's an excellent one. Fusing psychedelic rock, grunge and Vaudeville, the final confluence is an original sound worth listening to.