Originally published in The Edge
It was almost a dozen years ago that Eric Prydz almost displaced then-Prime Minister Tony Blair from his rowing machine with some rather provocative aerobics. 2004 single ‘Call On Me,’ a Stevie Winwood sample, spent five weeks at the top of the UK charts and, aged 7 and still only understanding music through the prism of ITV’s Saturday morning compendium CD:UK, Prydz’ self-maligned track served as my vulgar introduction to house music. By the time ‘Pjanoo’ was beaten to Number 1 by only Katy Perry four years later, an appreciation for the discipline and the man in particular had begun to properly gestate.
Numerous releases under countless guises later, including a three disc compilation under his dancefloor-centric alias Pryda in 2012, Prydz has at last put an album out under his own name. Opus requires patience, lasting beyond two hours, however the evident influences from the synth-pop upon which he feasted in his youth prevents it from feeling tedious.
House music revolves on repetition and undulation, and Prydz’ steady escalations exquisitely build intensity with new layers of percussion. Right on the minute mark of opener ‘Liam,’ following ominous flutters, a kick shatters the tension to cue a punchy snare and synthesised string melody. It’s very much an orchestrator rather than a main event, and the transition following it into an ’80s-led take on progressive house (or vice versa) is not the most natural.
It is, however, splendid. ‘Som Sas’ demands a place in a New Order tribute’s setlist, and ‘Last Dragon’ channels instrumental sensation ‘Pjanoo’ with an assured funk guided by a guitar bass. ‘Moody Mondays,’ featuring The Cut, is where the promise of a gloomy chorus erupts à la Depeche Mode, one of his previous remix targets. The likes of ‘Klepht’ and ‘Floj’ bring the tone somewhat deeper and partially techy, before a pulsating deadmau5 impression in ‘Eclipse’ leads us to an interval.
The second disc of the album sees Prydz diverge towards the more commercially-oriented aspects of his repertoire. ‘Sunset At Café Mambo’ heralds this transition, dropping the tempo and beckoning the renowned club’s Balearic atmosphere. Like ‘Liam,’ it clearly only sits here to build suspense for the pulsations to follow, but the fruits of its pathway are not quite so juicy.
In such a lengthy record, where less than a quarter of tracks come in at under six minutes, it is bizarre that ‘Breathe,’ the shortest, is the most languid of all. Rob Swire of Pendulum and Knife Party fame warbles a typically bland vocal, and the underlying instrumentation sounds like a stab at Meow The Jewels. Tom Cane, occasional voice to dance tracks from the likes of Wilkinson and Klangkarussell, does his bit to salvage the tail section through uncredited roles on singles ‘Generate’ and ‘Liberate,’ which both suffer from a similar ailment to ‘Breathe’, striking a master-of-none balance between radio tendencies and club depth albeit with far a far more pleasant listening experience.
Opus is best viewed as a journey through meticulous progressive house, rather like one of Prydz’ gruelling DJ sets, and it culminates spectacularly with a blast of nostalgia and energy. A caffeinated new edit of ‘Mija’ leads into ‘Every Day,’ an elusive track debuted by Pete Tong in 2012 that does reach that equilibrium with aggressive synths and a catchy, soul-laden vocal to match, before the end of the road, which gifted the album its name, takes the record’s ethos to a new extreme. Its nine minutes of entrancing tonal and structural ascent from a blank canvas could easily drop you off halfway for an early night. Instead, if you invest in Opus as a strong summarisation of the career of a longtime superstar of Swedish house music, you will reap its rewards.
Out now via Virgin EMI