Caterwaulrus and Costumes’ Costerwaulrus EP is a Dreamy Combination of Both Their Sounds

by Bram Howard


Earlier this month Caterwaulrus and Costumes released a short, but cool split entitled Costerwaulrus, and it’s a pretty fun album. Caterwaulrus being the solo Psych-Pop project of one John Michael Sherry, and Costumes being a dreamy Shoegaze band with a somewhat varying lineup of members, it seems odd to pair them together, but each band contributes a unique sound to this small collaboration, and this makes for a cool presentation of some of the musical creativity coming out of Austin.

Caterwaulrus starts things off with “Deer in the Headlights.” Shimmering synth tones, grooving bass and drum lines, and repetitious vocal samples remind me a bit of Animal Collective in their execution, sounding akin to an explosion of aural scenery; quite varied and all interesting. This gets suddenly broken up, something we’ll see a lot of, by a simple acoustic guitar melody and Sherry’s casual vocals. These two concepts then seem to merge into a groovy, melodic, and upbeat crescendo, each layer following Sherry’s central vocal thread. The song closes with a goofy, but entirely fun, Synthpop break that bounces and sways as it slowly fades away.

With “Track Three” (that’s the name, not the track number), a buzzing, sawtooth synth fades in from the same direction the last song faded out. The synth melodies recall the soundtrack to some ‘80s space documentary, but with a steady, grooving, and pounding drum beat. Sherry’s perpetual chanting vocals have the perfect backdrop here as they meander along in an almost surreal way, rambling on amidst electronic Psychedelia. About a third of the way in, the song suddenly takes on a relaxed feel as the buzz is removed from the synths, and the melodies withdraw behind samples of kids playing and a warped vocal sample of a woman singing. I kind of love how Caterwaulrus is able to shift mood so subtly because it’s not something I’d imagine is easy to do gracefully, but here it evolves into a whole new feel, as though it’s compelled to do so.

We’re next pulled from Caterwaulrus’ alternate dimension and dropped into the realm of Shoegaze as Costumes take the torch with “Dog People”. The song clips along at a steady, but somewhat quick pace while a simple, dreamy guitar riff dances about over foggy and reverberated guitar tones. When the song kicks into gear, an explosion of guitar tone and synth melodies take over everything as somewhat muffled vocals are drowned in the musical tempest. Despite all this noise, one can hear everyone following a central phrasing, and you find that there are just so many layers playing at once that everything just builds on top of everything else. Listening to things carefully, you can catch a lick of synthesizer here, or a carefully plucking guitar melody there, and it’s really cool to hear. I’m a huge fan of Shoegaze, and to me these guys put out a great sound.

The second Costumes song, and closer for the album, is “Nordic Vatican (Tired of Almost Everything).” It starts with hollow vocals, seemingly sung from down the hall, leading a wall of guitar noise straight into your headspace. It reminds me a bit of Nothing or Whirr’s new stuff, but it has a bit more of a Poppy melody to things, and the band seems to incorporate voices into layers in the same way it does guitars. With this song, things get chaotic. Behind the swirling mass of noise, one can hear strange, dissonant guitar tones ringing off in the distance, creating an odd sound, like the song is a massive object, shooting off small geysers of noise as it churns around. The song closes by slowly removing bits of noise until we’re left with just a pounding drum beat that then cuts off.

Despite being pretty different bands, Caterwaulrus and Costumes are able to create an experience with this album that puts two different genres side by side, but imbues a sense of welcoming from the listener. I enjoyed hearing Caterwaulrus’ first half of incredibly varied Electro-Psychedelia, only to be pulled into a whole new realm of experimentation with Costumes’ layers upon layers of guitar tone. Both of these artists are incredibly talented, and offer something new to each of their respective realms of style; something that I entirely value and enjoy.

Bram Howard is a music writer living in Austin, TX. He also plays in Leche.