Gus Englehorn | Dungeon Master
Includes download code
Before Montreal singer-songwriter Gus Englehorn was signed to Secret City Records he lived in a cabin in the woods and wrote Dungeon Master, the cutest, heaviest, strangest rock'n'roll record you will hear this year. Before he moved to the cabin he fell in love — in Salt Lake City, Utah - with a girl from Québec, whom he married one Friday the 13th. She would go on to become his drummer.
Before he met the girl - her name's Estée Preda by the way, she plays like Moe Tucker on salvia - Gus crisscrossed the globe as a world-class snowboarder. He shredded the gnar, he appeared in weird-ass videos, he made the covers of magazines and got sponsored by a company that manufactured sunglasses.
But before that he lived in Hawaii - on a lava field, off the grid, with his parents and two brothers. And before that in Alaska - in a hamlet called Ninilchik, where his parents fished for salmon, and he and his brothers ate moose, and pizza, and played Nintendo, and also pretended to be wizards. All normal. All ordinary. "Dog dreaming of being a man / and a man dreaming of being a dog," Gus Englehorn sings. "Run rabbit run!"
What's important to know is that for almost all of Gus's life - while he was getting bullied on the Big Island, while he was gleefully nonsenseboarding, while he was down in a basement groping for chords - he dreamed of being a songwriter. If he couldn't be Dylan maybe he'd be Daniel Johnston - or Frank Black and The Pixies or maybe Darby Crash and The Germs. And when he finally emerged - first on 2020's Death & Transfiguration and now here, on the 34-year-old's label debut - the sound he had found was dark and delightful, fun and demented, packed with dynamics and the chug of a hysterical guitar.
"Me voilà!" Gus declares mid-way through the throws of "The Gate," announcing the arrival of a singer who can coo and howl and snarl with his eyelashes fluttering. Dungeon Master is an outsider opus that sparkles with its Dada spirit - that playful juxtaposition of isolation, alienation and a mildish case of OCD. "I let my subconscious do the driving," Gus admits, and as you listen to these 10 tunes it's difficult not to do the same: to sit back like a dog with a two-legged daydream; like a fisherwoman with her net; like a snowboarder with a mouth full of powder.
Englehorn's electric visions are studded with synths and strings and manic pixie backing vocals, but at the heart of it is he and Estée's gnashing guitar and drums, turning the singer's darkest material – like on the stomping, paranoid "Tarantula," or the chapped and pleading "Exercise Your Demons" – into blasts of catharsis. Dungeon Master is deeper than a cellar, blunter than a club — a shivering introduction to an artist who's finally, fervidly arrived.
RIYL: Daniel Johnston, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Viva Voce etc
- The Gate
- Ups and Downs
- Exercise Your Demons
- Sunset Strip
- Oh Well Unwell
- Run Rabbit Run
- Terrible Horse
- The Flea