Independent musician Justin Weiss is scheduled to release his debut EP Vast Caldera 1 Tuesday. The five-song record, the first under Weiss’ moniker of Vast Caldera, is one of the most intriguing offerings independent or otherwise to see the light of day so far this year. That is because this 16-minnute instrumental opus takes the musical road less traveled throughout its presentation. The musical journey on which it takes listeners will be discussed shortly. It is just one of the EP’s most important elements. By connection, the set’s sequencing is just as important to examine as its songs. This item will be addressed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements. When it is considered along with the songs and the record’s sequencing, the whole makes Vast Caldera 1 one of this year’s most surprising new EPs.
Justin Weiss’ debut release under the moniker of Vast Caldera is proof that big things can and often do come in small packages. That is proven in part through the EP’s featured songs. The songs themselves present sounds and styles whose elements are easy to compare, but are collectively very difficult to pin down. That is evident right from the record’s outset. The gentle, flowing piano line that opens the record in ‘Romance’ does anything but conjure thoughts of romance. Rather, it presents a decidedly brooding tone. That tone is enhanced even more as the equally subtle guitar line is introduced alongside the piano line. Even as the guitar begins to take the lead, it is still controlled and subdued. By the time the song reaches its final seconds and the guitar fades out, audiences are left feeling so moved with that final piano “solo.” The arrangement in whole is difficult to liken to anything past or present out there.
Much the same can be said of ‘Nightfall’ as was noted of ‘Romance.’ This song is just as subdued as that composition. Even more interesting is that it opens with a riff that sounds like the main bars of the ‘Battle of the Fates’ theme from the Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. Odds are that similarity was unintentional, but it is there regardless. It is refrained at points throughout the course of the song which barely tops the 2:30 mark. The rest of the song again exhibits such control from Weiss and all involved here. From the steady beat from the bass drum to the subtle addition of the electronics alongside to the subdued final bars, these is so much going on and it is all so powerful in its presentation. It is just one more way in which the record’s musical content proves its value to the overall presentation. Glory’ is yet another way in which the record’s musical works prove so pivotal to Vast Caldera 1.
‘Glory’ opens with a subdued, but still groove-based guitar line that is immediately infectious. It couples with the song’s equally electronic drum line, synthesized strings and electronics to make this song stand strong on its own merits. There is even a horn line (likely also synthesized) that adds its own subtle touch to the arrangement. This song is completely unlike the EP’s other works just as they are from this work and one another. What’s more, it is near impossible to tie it down to a comparison to any other work out there. Between this song, the other two noted here and the EP’s two remaining tracks, the whole of the EP’s arrangements leaves zero doubt as to the engagement and entertainment that they generate for listeners. They are just one part of what makes the EP such a strong offering from Weiss, too. The record’s sequencing plays alongside the songs themselves to strengthen the EP’s presentation even more.
Vast Caldera 1’s sequencing is so important to note because it ensures the EP’s subtle, yet rich arrangements maintain the record’s mood throughout. As already noted, the EP’s opener boasts a certain energy, yet is still so controlled and subtle in its own right, even with the addition of the guitar. That sense of controlled tension continues nicely in the EP’s second song, ‘Adamant.’ The guitar line forms the song’s foundation, but still maintains that sense of mystery established in ‘Romance.’ The record changes pace again in ‘Glory’ in terms of its stylistic approach. Even with the stylistic change, the controlled tension remains here just as much as in the EP’s first two tracks. ‘Nightfall’ with its guitar line continues the emotional depth established in the EP’s first three songs and ensures audiences remain engaged just as much as those noted songs. ‘Dawn’ puts the final touch to the EP, sending out with just the slightest bit of edge. The piano line that finishes off the song in its final bars closes out the EP just as softly as the record’s opener if not more so. Looking back at all of the EP’s songs, the result of the sequencing is an effect that will move listeners in a most surprising fashion and ensure their appreciation for this record even more. Even with this in mind, the EP’s sequencing is just one more of its most important elements. Its production rounds out its most important elements.
As has already been mentioned multiple times here, there is so much going on in each of the EP’s songs, even in the simplest of moments. Whether it is the duality in the instrumentation in the EP’s opener, the more advanced work in ‘Glory’ or the depth of ‘Nightfall,’ Each song has its own share happening. Within each song, the instrumentation is well-balanced so that whether it be those noted simpler moments or those with a little more going on, the impact is the same. The fades between the lines in each song are so smooth, and they play so much into the overall work in the best way. That element and the richness of each instrumentation just leaves listeners feeling so connected with each song in a different way. When this is taken into consideration along with the songs’ arrangements and their sequencing, the whole of this EP becomes a presentation that shows in its own unique way why independent artists and acts deserve just as much attention as their more well-known counterparts.
Justin Weiss’ debut EP under the moniker of Vast Caldera is a work that stands out so well in this year’s field of new EPs. It take influences from rock and from electronic yet sounds little to nothing like songs from the most well-known acts in said genres. It really holds its own against other releases in this year’s field of new EPs. That is proven in the arrangements featured in this record. The sequencing of those arrangements adds even more appeal to the record’s presentation. The EP’s production puts the final touch to its presentation. All the elements noted here are important in their own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make Vast Caldera 1 unquestionably deserving of its own spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new EPs. More information on the record is available along with all of Weiss’ latest news is available at:
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