Gus Englehorn is a songwriter who now resides in Quebec City, Canada. He grew up in Alaska and Hawaii with parents whose lifestyle meant jobs in both states and as a youth got into snowboarding and turned it into a career. During that stretch of his life Englehorn became exposed to genuine underground and otherwise non-mainstream music partly through skateboarding and snowboarding videos which often showcase cutting edge artists. Though Englehorn didn’t fully grow up playing music he started picking up guitar toward the end of his tenure as a professional snowboarder and he realized at one point that he couldn’t spend the rest of his life in such a physically demanding sport and around a decade ago he started to make the transition into more creative endeavors. While many people who come to music later in life than usual often latch on to a musical style of their younger years or something more trendy at that time. Englehorn instead leaned into his creative instincts and personality and has produced a body of work striking for its uniqueness and creativity. The songwriter’s first album Death & Transfiguration released in January 2020 right before the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, possibly the worst time to release and promote a new album in recent memory. The record nevertheless had the hallmarks of what has made Englehorn’s music stand out. Though it could be considered a truly idiosyncratic indie pop that fans of Half Japanese and Daniel Johnston might appreciate, Englehorn is clearly tapping into some musical ideas of the 90s but stripped back the sonic excess to allow the songs to hit with a charming vulnerability in its unusual character studies and stories that should form the basis of a future, more benevolent Harmony Korine film.
With that first album and its 2022 follow up, Dungeon Master, Englehorn has performed the music with his partner in life and drummer Estée Preda who also does the artwork for both records. Her visual style akin to children’s mythical storybooks and manga both is a perfect analog of the music within. Dungeon Master finds the duo exploring the inclusion of synths and an even more surreal sensibility in the lyrics and blending of musical elements. The album sounds like a great collection of stories you’d want to see as a Jim Jarmusch anthology film. Fortunately music videos for “Exercise Your Demons” and “Tarantula” at a minimum exist and both reveal even more layers of the wonderful yet highly accessible weirdness of this album. We had a chance to speak with the charming and engaging Englehorn about his life and his art and with any luck we’ll see a more extensive set of live shows in the near future. Apologies for not getting this posted in time to let people know about Estée Preda’s art show in May 2022.
Listen to the interview below on Bandcamp and to get a copy of Dungeon Master or Death & Transfiguration digitally you can visit the artist’s own Bandcamp and for the physical media (cassette/CD/vinyl) you can visit Secret City Records.
The surreal weirdness of Gus Englehorn’s song and video for “Tarantula” immediately triggers memories and visions of Half Japanese, Alice Donut, They Might Be Giants and King Missile in your brain. It’s from an album called Dungeon Master and if geek adept status wasn’t earned for Englehorn for that alone, the curiously catchy and tuneful song turns an off standard melody sound in the vocals and unusual delivery into something that draws you in. The lyrics are also somewhat nonsensical and bizarre. “Tarantula that whispers in your ear” followed by lines that don’t clarify a thing like “Hold your head under water” and “River bed ever after.” But it doesn’t matter. It’s absurdist imagery at its finest and need not fulfill some linear succession of thought. The image of a tarantula whispering quasi mystical, Dada-esque phrases into your ear forces the brain down alternate pathways that take you off the map of the everyday. And does it make less sense then the words to a whole swath of pop music? “Louie Louie” people have sung along to since it came out or “Surfin’ Bird” and both songs are completely demented musically with lyrics that matter less than the almost shamanistic quality of their cadence and the same is true here. Watch the video that Englehorn made with his musical partner in crime Estée Preda made for “Tarantula” on YouTube and connect with Englehorn at the links below. Dungeon Master releases on April 29, 2022 on Secret City Records.
Who:Why? plays Alopecia w/Lala Lala When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: 2008’s Alopecia signaled the break between Yoni Wolf’s solo work as Why? and the band of the same name. As with its 2005 predecessor Elephant Eyelash, Alopecia included contributions from Wolf’s former cLOUDDEAD bandmates Doseone and Odd Nosdam. But Alopecia opened up even more frank lyrics and surreal soundscapes from Yoni Wolf and his brother Josiah and signaled a true synthesis of hip-hop and lo-fi indie rock in a way few other artists had accomplished up to that time except for maybe hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, Aesop Rock and experimental music weirdos such as Black Moth Super Rainbow and Karl Blau. Why? took that sensibility and made it into something grand and, to use a now overused term, epic—private musings given a cinematic presentation. It might be argued that later Why? albums are better or achieve greater heights of artistic achievement but Alopecia is the bedrock upon which they were built and remains one of Wolf’s finest records in an already impressive career.
Who:Morlox album release w/Demoncassettecult, Juniordeer, Flesh Buzzard, Housekeys When: Thursday, 11.8, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Patrick Urn established his production and noise-making bonafides as a member of industrial band In Ether in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since then he has spent time in various cities in America including Seattle and Pittsburgh where he made dark ambient music, hip-hop beats and soundscape noise in projects like Herpes Hideaway and Syphilis Sauna. In the mid-2010s Urn returned to Denver and one might say quietly re-established himself as a producer of note among those in the know in the underground. Having worked with, among other artists, Church Fire, Urn demonstrated a mastery of sampling as a tool for composition in both the recorded and live environment. With his latest album Report From Sector zx88z out on Glasss Records, Urn worked with multiple noteworthy noise and hip-hop artists to fill out songs that were already strong, making them even more fascinating. R A R E B Y R D $, ERASERHEAD FUCKERS and Sheetmetal Skin Graft as well as HarmOny ov thee FYRE formerly of political punk band Dangerous Nonsense all shine on the record and give the songs an accessibility not always found with artists that are associated with noise and industrial music. But Urn’s music making could never be said to be limited to genre conventions of any kind. Check out this show if you’re into seeing someone pushing the envelope of electronic music because it may be the last time to see Urn perform some of these songs before he moves on to his next sonic adventure.
Who:The Orb w/Mental 69 When: Thursday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: The Orb basically took the electronic and production ideas then influencing and synthesizing into various manifestations of what became rave music in the 90s and created a style of ambient dub and house that influenced IDM, trip hop and anyone making electronic dance music with an adventurous bent in the 90s and beyond. The duo’s latest release is 2018’s No Sounds Are Out of Bounds. If you’re thinking of going, these guys put forth sounds that transcend the usual two guys with headphones nodding their heads on stage sort of thing. Their music will reorient your brain in good ways getting to experience it on a loud sound system.
Who:Y La Bamba w/Don Chicharrón When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Luz Elena Mendoza found a unique place as a songwriter in Portland, Oregon who is making a kind of folk-rooted pop. Her music and outlook comes out of the Mexican folk tradition inspired in part from a young age by mariachis. Her songs use her heritage to explore personal as well as collective struggles with an elegance and creativity that reconciles the dark side of life with hope and joy informed by grace and patience for the process. Y La Bamba recently released a seven inch of “Mujeres” b/w “Paloma Negra” and will drop the new full length, also titled Mujeres, in February also on Tender Loving Empire.
Friday | November 8, 2018
Who:Glacial Tomb album release w/Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness When: Friday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Glacial Tomb recently released its self-titled debut full-length comprised of seven songs of relentless blackened death metal driven by powerful yet nuanced percussion. It’s primal stuff that sounds like it was inspired by a not so far future that isn’t post-apocalypse so much as post-collapse of human world civilization as we know it. Guitars as insectoid sirens, vocals as feral pronouncements of the remnants of humanity clinging to twisted versions of earth-based occult mysticism in the attempt to garner a few more years through brutal rituals and quests to find what’s left of the planet where life itself, and not just human, might flourish again while the rest of the planet works through the toxins making it all but uninhabitable. At least that’s what the record sounds like if you let your mind wander a little. Joining the trio tonight are other local extreme metal stars in Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness.
Saturday | November 10, 2018
Who:Special Guest featuring The Milk Blossoms, Eyebeams and Wheelchair Sports Camp When: Saturday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Next Stage Gallery Why: Special Guest is a series featuring some of Denver’s most interesting and innovative musical projects. The Milk Blossoms is a band whose amalgam of outsider pop, lo-fi R&B and vivid emotional recreations is always surprisingly deeply evocative. The Milk Blossoms is a psychedelic indie pop group with songs that deftly and thoughtfully navigate the vagaries of one’s own mind, illuminate nuanced perspectives on relationships with others and society in general and explore evolving concepts of identity. Wheelchair Sports Camp is a brilliant meeting of hip-hop, electronic production and avant-garde jazz. Also, vocals and songwriting from hopefully future Denver mayor/Colorado governor Kalyn Heffernan.
Who:Den Mother w/Klaus Dafoe and Bryon Parker When: Saturday, 11.10, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Why: This lo-fi pop/rock show includes Bryon Parker of noisy post-punk band Simulators (he recently released a collaborative single with Jad Fair whose solo career is noteworthy on its own but who was also a member of foundational indie pop band Half Japanese and may be known for his album with Daniel Johnston). It is also the final show from indie rock band Den Mother whose own Misun Oh is leaving Denver for Ohio after living in the Mile High City for over a decade. She was once married to cartoonist/visual artist/songwriter John Porcellino of King Cat Comics and Stories fame (she is depicted in several issues). But she also contributed to Denver’s underground music and art community as a gifted practitioner of Chinese medicine and as a musician and supporter of the local music world in her own right as a member of French Chemists and other projects.
Who:SPELLS, Eyes and Ears (tape releases), Great American House Fire (tape release) and Hooper When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Good thing SPELLS says 80% is good enough so that the other bands that aren’t such a party punk band can shine. Eyes and Ears comes off of de facto hiatus with a new release and a reminder that pop and loosely conceived punk can be fun if the people in the band don’t take it too seriously. Great American House Fire also releases a tape this night with its unique take on the kind of music that came out of late 90s emo, post-hardcore and Americana. Hooper might be considered pop punk but it’s a bit too gritty for that even if the anthemic and glittery melodic hardcore flavor of some of its sounds suggest the pop punk connection.
Who:Deca w/Felix Fast4ward and Stay Tuned When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m. Where: Leon Gallery Why: Deca from New York is operating in that realm of hip-hop that uses samples that give the music a downtempo vibe with a touch of the otherworldly. Like maybe Deca drew some inspiration from, of course, J Dilla and Blockhead. The 2018 album Flux is instrumental album that works incredibly well on its own as a sound environment form of storytelling but also well suited to someone else’s words. Like-minded Denver acts Felix Fast4ward (whose own beats cross effortless between the realms of hip-hop and deep house) and Stay Tuned whose songs are socially critical but playful and powerful.
Sunday | November 11, 2018
Who:Cro-Mags w/EyeHateGod When: Sunday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: This double bill of two legends of punk and heavy music is interesting given the backgrounds of members of both bands. John Joseph of Cro-Mags grew up in foster care in New York City, Mike Williams of EyeHateGod got to experience life after both his parents died when he was a child and he left home in his mid-teens and occasionally spending time homeless. Cro-Mags were one of the most important and influential of the New York City hardcore scene known for a kind of tough guy image that was combined with ideas about self-defense, physical as well as psychological, in a hostile world and a clear need for camaraderie with like-minded types in a real, human way that isn’t in step with stoic, tough guy machismo. EyeHateGod’s records, coming out starting in 1990, had songs about self-loathing, despair at humankind’s collective self-destructive behaviors including cruelty toward one another. Williams’ words so insightful about how those self-destructive tendencies in the human psyche manifest on the personal level continued to evolve and refine its critique not just of society and the self but also of the bases of cultural norms themselves. But never abstract, always accessibly personal and vulnerable.
Who:Endless Nameless, Giardia, Feigning, Masons When: Sunday, 11.11, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Endless, Nameless is a jazz-inflected math rock band from Denver. Fans of Covet should check them out. Giardia is a jazzy experimental metal band. Masons make the kind of post-rock that bridges the gap between breezier shoegaze and the more introspective side of Modest Mouse. Feigning will bring something a bit darker with its noisy, menacing darkwave.
Tuesday | November 13, 2018
Who:Behemoth w/At the Gates and Wolves in the Throne Room When: Tuesday, 11.13, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Behemoth formed in Gdańsk, Poland in 1991 shortly after the nation re-established itself as a democratic republic after decades of domination by the then splintering U.S.S.R.. It was a time when black metal and death metal were cohering in the European underground and a theatric sensibility informed how that music was performed throughout Scandinavia and formerly communist states. Initially, the band had a sound that was not unlike that of its peers, a kind of taking thrash and death metal and either pushing it to a brutal, forbidding extreme or giving it an epic, almost orchestral, grandeur. Behemoth did a little of both and injected the music with occult and fantastical/mythological imagery and themes—which it has continued to do up to and including its 2018 album I Loved You at Your Darkest. But the latter is arguably the band’s best album at times sounding like it synthesized a Napalm Death-esque assault with a sonic transcendence, creating a contrast that the band uses with great dynamic affect across the whole record. That you also get to see At The Gates, the Swedish melodic/Gothenburg death metal legends that came up at the same time as Behemoth in the early 90s, and Wolves in the Throne Room, the Olympia, Washington-based black metal band whose own sound is informed by the natural environment of their home region and synth heavy Krautrock, is more than just a bonus but probably the best heavy music line up in that vein for the rest of the year.
Wednesday | November 14, 2018
Who:Rubblebucket w/Thick Paint and Toth When: Wednesday, 11.14, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Rubblebucket’s 2018 album Sun Machine is a powerful and intimate depiction of survival and the drive to create something meaningful in the most trying of circumstances. Annakalmia Traver and Alex Toth had been a couple but had split while making the new record and in there too Traver struggled with and overcame a bout with cancer and Toth came to terms with his own challenges with alcoholism. Those kinds of pressures often break bands and relationships of all kinds. But the bond between the two artists persisted and they found a way to articulate difficult truths with a poetic truth and its typically eclectic and dynamic songwriting. This may not be the band at its yet-to-be-attained peak but it certainly is a high point for Brooklyn duo.
Who:Weird Wednesday: Mirror Fears, Lady of Sorrows and Hot Slag When: Wednesday, 11.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday includes performances from ambient/dance/noise phenom Mirror Fears. Lately she’s been performing some visionary deep house style music that isn’t a huge departure from her already fascinating work in the realm of emotionally-charged darkwave. Lady of Sorrows is darkwave/dream pop with operatic vocals. Hot Slag has similarly dusky soundscapes but more in the vein of a compelling crossbreeding of IDM and weirdo hip-hop.
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