Eric Prydz's Epic 4.0 Tour Lives Up To Its Name at Terminal 5 in New York: Live Review
Eric Prydz is fond of big statements. His new album is not-so-subtly titled Opus and its 19 tracks -- most of which pulse with military grade, bunker-busting power -- stretch out over two hours. (Though this is actually relatively slim compared to 2012's 37-track deluxe edition of Eric Prydz Presents Pryda.) The Swedish DJ touched down at Terminal 5 in Manhattan Saturday night on his Epic 4.0 tour and he was armed with awe-inspiring sounds and wondrous visuals needed to back up that title.
Prdyz’s biggest moment in the mainstream is still his very first single, 2004's "Call On Me," a cheerfully delirious track that leaned heavily on French touch signifiers. But the music he's made in the last decade -- under his own name, or the titles Pryda or Cirez D -- has little relation to that initial breakthrough.
Opus, at once brutal and extravagant, is more representative of this artist's style. The clipped, driving beats have much in common with '80s rock, especially the drums favored by artists like Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, which landed with back-breaking force but dissipated immediately, leaving no echoes to indicate there brutish passage. On top of these rhythms, Prydz layers melodies on keyboard or synthesizer, crafting architectural structures of impressive beauty -- grand and symmetrical, they always resolve in pleasing ways. A song like "Collider" suggests nothing so much as invincibility. Taken in at home, all at once, Opus can be alternately exhilarating and exhausting. Stretches of the record sound the same, then one of his melodies takes an unexpected turn, and a feeling of astonishment returns.
At Terminal 5, Prydz played several songs from the new album. He pushed the organ solo in "Floj" past the point of baroque -- it suddenly sounded as if he was leading mass in a 12th century cathedral -- then proceeded to blow it away with a bass line that had the consistency of half-melted concrete. "Trubble" seemed to hint at an ancient struggle, as synth arpeggios launched the song skyward and deep surges of low-end fought to pull it back to earth.
Prydz also drew from his well of vocal anthems, collaborations with active-tense one-word titles: "Generate," "Liberate." These are not the strongest tracks on Opus -- the vocals often feel anonymous and the instrumentals tend to deferential -- but they reliably ignite a crowd at a venue like Terminal 5: everyone likes to chant sweet, escapist nothings. The DJ offset the synth-heavy passages with lengthy rhythmic workouts. These bare-bones assaults often followed the same rule, predictable but effective, as he gradually arranged his arsenal of drum sounds into syncopated, sternum-crushing patterns.
The spare techno sections had a stern rigor which contrasted with the colorful, inventive visuals. Prydz DJ'd from inside a four-walled cage and each wall became a screen that flashed simple geometric patterns (spindly lines, concentric squares) or video graphics depicting lightning storms or journeys through the asteroid belt. These were entrancing enough that Prydz didn’t even need to trigger his laser display until about an hour into his set.
But more stunning was an image generator that projected 3-D graphics at the center of Prydz’s cube, providing endless satisfaction for the crowd. At one point, a whirling tornado materialized above one of his turntables; the gleaming face mask that adorns the cover of Opus sometimes rotated above the DJ, as did an assortment of pleasing geometric structures: spheres inscribed in cubes, orbs that assembled and reassembled in front of astounded eyes.
Prydz ended the night the same way he ends his album, with "Opus," a remarkable track that earned a public remix request from Four Tet -- a very different sort of dance floor savant who favors vinyl and does not have Prydz’s arena-filling capabilities. "Opus" starts slowly and picks up speed. A galloping rhythm finally crashes in around 3:45 and the remainder of the track is a maelstrom of tension and release. Each time the beat returns seems more marvelous than the last. Even after a night full of big statements, it still felt huge.