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Eric Prydz raises the stakes of EDM visuals with EPIC 2.0

On Saturday at the Hollywood Palladium, dance music fans will get a sensory barrage from three different projects. There’s the audiovisual EDM extravaganza EPIC 2.0, with artists from the label group Pryda performing over 3D holograms and live LED installations. There’s sleek, hypnotic techno from Cirez D, who closed out a night of last week’s HARD Day of the Dead festival. And they’ll get mixes of smart, populist house from the Swedish DJ Eric Prydz, a veteran producer and one of the genre’s rising superstars.

The twist here? All the projects are masterminded by Prydz. The Swedish-raised, L.A.-transplanted producer has made a career of reinventing his identity to push his music forward.

Early on in his musical life, he collaborated with Swedish House Mafia and wrote the 2004 tracksuited Euro rave hit “Call On Me.” Then over a series of progressively more interesting singles and LPs, he revamped his sound to become one of the genre’s most popular artists in several different guises, showcasing his inventively mainstream, minimalist and collaborative sides.

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With the catalog-spanning EPIC 2.0., Prydz is raising the stakes for how artists present dance music live, in ways unique to their own aesthetic.

“The reason we did EPIC is that, at the time, so many big shows were preprogrammed to confetti cannons and LED walls,” he said. “We wanted to do something that was an extension of the music, not a spectacle. It’s like in film, where the music is there to emphasize a visual mood, but here it’s the other way around.”

EPIC 2.0 is, as its title suggests, the second incarnation of Prydz’s design-pushing live production. The first, which played a limited run in London in 2011, used then-up-to-the-moment projection mapping and an array of lighting to complement a wide swath of Prydz’s music. Unlike many production-heavy DJ shows, where much of the set is preprogrammed and cued to light rigs, Prydz’s EPIC sets were more like a live band jamming. His lighting engineers performed effects and cued animations in time with his own off-the-cuff song selections.

“The storyteller here is Eric and his music. As this show is 100% live, he has the ability to choose a different story to tell the crowd for each show,” said Liam Tomaszewski, who helmed the animation for EPIC 2.0. “It is our job to visually represent the emotion, energy and anticipation within Eric's music, be it through the LED, the hologram, lights alone or a combination of the three.”

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The new version enhances and refines the technical side of the project. There are no more projections, with the big visuals replaced by brighter LED-mapping surfaces and new 3D holograms, including one of Prydz himself, for which he underwent a full digital body-scan. The scalable new setup finally allowed him to take it on the road (it hit New York last month and will go to Chicago later in November).

To build it, he collaborated with the Immersive over the last two years. For an artist making music in so many different projects, each designed to translate in a variety of club and festival settings, it was a new chance to turn his music into a total aesthetic environment.

But in doing it all live, there’s an extra degree of difficulty – and potential.

“At first this was a daunting decision,” said Immersive’s Mark Calvert, EPIC 2.0’s show designer and producer. “However, Eric has always been a celebrated DJ, and because of this it felt right that EPIC 2.0 should be about performance and artistry. It's great to see a DJ being a DJ - feeding off the local crowds, and taking each show as a unique experience.”

“They funny thing is, from where I’m standing, on my side I can’t see [anything] up there. The holograms look amazing on YouTube though,” Prydz said, laughing. “No one knows what the other one is going to do. I mean, I know what song I’m going to play first, but after that it’s all unplanned. So many big productions are prerecorded because it’s all cued to rockets and fire-puffs, but it’s more fun to improvise.”

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Prydz isn’t totally flying blind up there. He’s worked on new edits of singles spanning all of his aliases, from the moody and measured Cirez D tracks to his big-tent solo work and remixes like his crowd-pleasing slice-up of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” But he digs the idea that different nights of the same show can have completely different vibes. The opening night of his New York stand was “technically better, but we got a little darker on the second night, and that was really fun,” he said.

“I can’t really put my finger on how it works. You know you’ve made a mistake if you put a track on and the whole crowd sits down and has a coffee. But when you’re playing to 5,000, 10,000 or 100,000 people, you’re playing to an ocean and you just have to sense where the thing is going.”

EPIC 2.0 is also a sort-of homecoming for Prydz, who moved to L.A. from Sweden about a year ago. As L.A. becomes a home base for globally agenda-setting dance shows, the move to California was an easy sell for a guy who would otherwise be holed up fighting frostbite this time of year.

“Back in Sweden, right now we’d have about four hours of sun every day and there’d be icebergs coming in,” he said, only semi-facetiously. “Here, it’s lovely and the dance music scene reminds me of Europe 15 years ago. It’s an Americanized version, but that same kind of excitement about a movement being created is here.”

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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