Vast Caldera Scores on New EP

By Deuce

You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking Justin Weiss, presumably the same entity as the artist/producer/musician Vast Caldera, was a pianist—especially if you happened to peruse his latest Extended Player Vast Caldera 1, which is not nearly as besotted with keyboard work as it is guitar.

Although the electronic guitar ramblings of the musician dominate these tracks, the most poignant (or special) sounds, so it seems to one reviewer, stem from the piano. Unusually high notes, at times hammered out so hard you can almost hear the pressing of the keys as loud as the sounds they produce, characterize the better part of this dimension of the oeuvre, truly setting the tone for the fiery eruptions of guitar that eventually round them out.

This tendency is expressed most effectually on “Romance”, which counterpoises any sort of sentimentality with an eeriness that’s much more cogent. The artist persists in this vein for at least a minute, leaving listeners spellbound as to which direction he’ll eventually head towards, before the siren of his guitar takes over, transforming the sublime to something much more accessible.

To Weiss’s credit, however, the piano playing lasts the duration of the number. It does so again on “Dawn”, an unmistakably flaming ode to the quotidian eruption of daylight, life, and activity it unequivocally heralds each morning. Although the artist’s electric guitar nearly overwhelms the track at times, the painstaking accuracy of the piano playing remains the most memorable impression created.

The brilliance in this collection of tunes as a whole is Caldera’s repeated ability to pair the tension of these cuts (depicted best in “Adamant” with the soaring pitch of the strings) with guitar work that actually augments or improves it. You can hear car chases, shootouts, and guns drawn dialogue emanating in these songs. The better part of “Adamant” sounds like a slowed down version of a heart-pounding James Bond score.

Other cuts like “Nightfall” redirect this energy into sounds of video games, specifically the Spy Hunter gaming theme that proliferated in any number of arcades in the 1980’s, and which was breathed to life by Eightball and MJG in In Our Lifetime. To say the least, such ditties place Caldera in rarified turf, which is where the majority of these songs belong.   

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