He may be best known for "Call on Me" and his Pink Floyd remix, but left-of-center DJ Eric Prydz will be remembered because of his truly astounding Opus.
What's most surprising about Eric Prydz isn't so much the career he's had as it is the sheer number of careers he could've had.
Career Number One, of course, would've been him as the David Guetta-styled pop savant, as the Swedish-born Prydz's 2004 hit "Call on Me", which featured a Steve Winwood sample used so effectively that even Winwood himself felt the need to record new vocals for, became an international dance smash, catapulting Prydz to the forefront of a movement he wasn't even sure he wanted to be a part of. Yet churning out such instantly-contagious moments of pop perfection is a hell of a day job, and one that comes with eternally-crushing expectations. Despite what it did for his career, Prydz used his newfound notoriety to do things he wanted to do, like collaborate with CHVRCHES and become the first-ever artist given permission to sample Pink Floyd. During all of this, however, he was still best known as the "Call on Me" guy, and he made sure to distance himself from that song (albeit in polite fashion) ever since.
Career Number Two is the easy one: go-to EDM monster. Although Basement Jaxx, Fatboy Slim, and the Chemical Brothers were groups that were always name-checked as artists that could bridge hardcore dance and mainstream pop aesthetics together in one place, the mid-2000s left dance music in a bit of an identity crisis, because while trance and house DJs were a dime-a-dozen. EDM music as we know it today was still a bit of ways off (to say nothing of the advent of dubstep), and given the falling fortunes of former powerhouses like Paul Oakenfold and Perfecto Records, Prydz knew that it was better to leave them wanting more, so limited himself to a select amount of singles ("Pjanoo" still did gangbusters in the UK, despite being released a full four years after "Call on Me"), and all but disappeared between 2008 and 2011. Tiesto and Sasha could have their limelight, celebrated amongst the techno masses but nary a word heard by them in the mainstream, but Prydz knew, again, that this wasn't the gig for him, instead focusing on various singles and helping out his friends, perfecting techniques like his signature "Pryda Snare" along the way.
So what did Prydz do instead? For Career Number Three, the one that took hold, Prydz did something wholly unexpected: he decided to make an album of straight-ahead, floor-filling dance music that was bereft of tricks or gimmickry. There were no mega-divas appearing on his albums, nor was anyone waiting for the beat to drop or any number of annoying modern dance clichés. Instead, with Opus, his double-disc full-length following 2011's label-driven sampler ... Presents Pryda, he managed to create a set of songs that feel very much of-the-moment while simultaneously timeless as well, dance songs that are heavily focused on melody and composition but done in a way that both casual listeners and hardcore Beatport overanalyzers could both appreciate.
Take "Black Dyce", for example: there is nothing extraordinary about this dance song, which mixes a standard 4/4 beat, a few '80s octagon drum fills, and a solid synth melody together in one place, making for a six-minute epic which doesn't provide much thrills in terms of structure or nuanced surprises but is undeniably solid, an above-average floor-filler that does its job without asking any questions. "Moody Mondays", meanwhile, cops a few indie-dance poses with its gritty, blown-out synth-guitar sound working well with a vocal contribution by The Cut which, along with those post-chorus guitar chimes, has more than a few shades of the Cure, no doubt pleasing to those who still wish Robert Smith pursued his casual interest in being a danceclub messiah a bit further.
Yet the more Opus pushes on, something becomes immediately clear: there are absolutely no bad songs on this album. Prydz avoids the biggest misstep that most EDM albums have (having too many similar-sounding tracks "blur together") by differentiating his textures at just the right time. On "Colldier", he starts off by emphasizing his rock-inspired drum production before inserting a nice/pliable piano coda in the track's later half. The beat to "Trubble" is very much indebted to '90s house music in terms of the way the drum hits are gated, and that song segues right into "Klepht", a distinct sonic echo to the early Chicago club scene with a moody production that sounds like it was made in a basement -- something that would've been perfect for DJ Frankie Knuckles to spin.
Yet amidst all of these "good" and "very good" songs, Opus' main problem is that it has few truly show-stopping moments, must-have collectibles that feel like they'll last in the same way "Call on Me" will. Save, of course, for the closing title track, a nine-minute master class on rising action that breaks out of the 4/4 structure to bring an uplifting, building melody that can best be described as what goes through Philip Glass' mind while he's tripping on Molly at Creamfields. Although this song came out over half a year prior to its namesake album, one can't help but feel that Prydz built all his other songs leading to this moment, a rare gem that will never eclipse his mid-2000s hits but is far better than anything he has done before or will do after.
Again, Eric Prydz had his choice of careers, having dabbled in a variety of them before ultimately ending up where he is now: a label head with a bevy of side-projects to entertain himself with and a headlining DJ career that was undoubtedly satisfying before, but now that Opus is out in the world, we see that his ambitions lay farther than anything you can find at Spring Awakenings or Ibiza. Eric Prydz doesn't want to be a mere headliner: he wants to be whispered in the same vein as so many DJ legends, and at the rate he's going, one day he will be.