When Justin Weiss was growing up, he and his family went on a road trip. It was there he discovered, via his father's iPod, a love for classic rock music - music he spent years practicing on guitar. When Weiss was in college, he discovered electronic music and quickly wanted to absorb that the same way he did with classic rock all those years ago. Finally, he decided, "Why not do both?"
Weiss has done just that with Vast Caldera 1, the debut EP from his group, Vast Caldera. Produced by Abe Duque, the five instrumental tracks mix elements of electronic music with classic rock guitar riffs to create a sound that is at once both familiar and forward thinking.
Calling Vast Caldera a group is a bit of a misnomer as Weiss plays all the instruments, recording them in his apartment studio. There are elements of Led Zeppelin, but also Hans Zimmer and Nine Inch Nails in these songs, making for a unique mix. The five tracks all have one-word titles and deal with moods or times of day.
The EP leads off with "Romance," which has a pretty piano intro with stark, ringing notes. When the bass and stringed instruments come in, it sounds as if one is listening to a music box. That is before the distorted electric guitars kick in and break up the proceedings. Here is the intersection where classic rock and electronic music meet. "Adamant" follows and it sounds as if it could be on the soundtrack to a 1980s action movie. Swirling keyboard notes and intricate guitar leads intertwine, lending a sense of excitement to the track. Weiss is a strong guitarist, but never overplays, preferring to serve the songs.
On "Glory," Weiss combines an electric piano with some funky bass riffs and exotic guitar leads. The keyboards double as a horn section on this standout track. "Nightfall" finds Weiss channeling his inner Steve Hackett for a bit of neoclassical-inspired guitar playing. The song is filled with plenty of emotion and drama, befitting its name. The EP closes out with "Dawn,"which showcases a pretty, delicate piano part over a rhythmic backing track. The sounds swell as the guitars rise in the fix of this fitting closer.
On Vast Caldera 1, Weiss has done an excellent job of merging his two loves of classic rock and electronic music. The playing is strong, but never overdone and the melodies are memorable. The family roadtrip from way back when certainly paid off for Weiss in spades.