Like many music lovers and musicians today, Justin Weiss grew up in a sort of cross section of great music eras. His parents’ music featured heavily in his childhood in the forms of Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix and Metallica while in college, electronic artists like Pretty Lights, Hans ZImmer and Bassnectar ruled the landscape. For his first EP on this instrumental project that attempts to marry the two genres, Vast Caldera marries electronica and guitar rock quite seamlessly.
Influenced by the guitar gods of the 70s and 80s, Weiss picked up an axe in his youth and pretty much didn’t put it down for ten years. He practices almost constantly, he says, and that complex, well-played guitar sound is the main feature of the first EP of his Vast Caldera project. Different in both style and substance to Ratatat and some other instrumental guitar projects, Vast Calder is polished in his delivery but decidedly analog in the guitars. The classic rock influence really shines through here with a style that is as bluesy as it is rock-driven, and harkens back to blues guitar acts like Steve Vai, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimmy Page.
The electronica on Vast Caldera I is meant to back the guitars but it’s clear that Weiss has developed a style there as well and enjoys creating sounds that drive the guitar in different directions. The opening track “Romance” has a strong piano-style accompaniment that makes the track sound a bit classical, a little eerie and a lot romantic, hence the name. A trace of Evanessence can be caught here, although with the focus on the guitar instead of the vox.
The next track, “Adamant” swings the metronome the other way and the accompanying track full of jazz or big band trumpet matches Weiss’s guitar in both loudness and style. The beat and harmony running behind is also much more obvious, with a sort of Tangerine Dream-like chugging beat. The EP toggles back and forth between classically driven sounds and more rock or experimental electronica sound until closing track “Dawn,” which combines all the sounds Weiss played with in previous tracks into one big cacophony of guitar, synths, piano and ambient sound design to put a powerful period on the end of the Vast Caldera I saga.
From his naming of the first Vast Caldera EP, it seems that these EPs may end up being a series where Weiss will explore even more sounds and production techniques, all while continuing to improve his guitar craft as all great players do. It will be interesting to the progression of his style as more EPs and tracks are released.
Vast Caldera I is out now and can be streamed on Spotify.