Against The Drop
For a few hours every week, the DJ is your god. There are others who help mediate his blessing — shot girls, bouncers, and minor celebrities — but ultimately, it’s the DJ who gives, and it’s the DJ who takes away. Into his hands we commit our spirits.
Eric Prydz has had many spirits in his hands. The only artist ever given permission to sample Pink Floyd, Eric Prydz lives in the upper echelons of dance music’s Mount Olympus. Despite shaping the electronic music genre as we know it, Opus is the only album he’s released under his own name. He told THUMP at its release:
“If I had a business card that could show people exactly what Eric Prydz does, then it would be Opus. This record is who I am as a musician.”
The standout track on Opus is, of course, “Opus”. If Eric Prydz is a god, Opus is his gospel. It’s 9 minutes 3 seconds long, but it spans an entire lifetime within its three colossal drops: the bewitching build-up of bullet-sharp synth; the washing, cross-syncopated beat that clashes and re-clashes with the slowly levitating kick drum. It aspires to transcendence, and it gets pretty close. Even The Guardian says that Prydz’ signature flourish “remains gigantically satisfying: a pair of boulder-splitting snares that announce the drop… their arrival is like a glitter cannon to the face.”
Key to any good drop is continuity and contrast. Without continuity, you might as well be mashing your thumb down on the skip button. Without contrast, there’s no moment of release. Continuity is the promising, contrast is what’s promised. Synth gives way to bass. Hype gives way to abandon. Fulfillment comes at the drop: it’s the moment you get what’s been promised to you in the build up.
The first drop in Opus comes nearly 4 minutes in, so you might think that this is a gospel of patience: EDM’s very own ‘seek and ye will find’. But finding isn’t what’s promised, and patience isn’t the path. Opus isn’t a gospel of finding, it’s a gospel of forgetfulness. 3 minutes 43 seconds is how long it takes for you to lose yourself in its trance. At the drop, you forget — and you’re free. Free from who? Free from you.
The Workshop of Forgetfulness was founded in May 1976. The belief behind the name was that “people go out at night to forget their problems and indulge in an unknown world far away from ordinary routine”. Shortly after opening, they settled on a new name that captured everything they wanted to express in a far more succinct way: Amnesia. With a capacity of 5000 people, it’s one of Ibiza’s biggest clubs.
The gospel of Opus belongs in Amnesia like incense in a temple. Everything about it mediates forgetting; and the DJ is god for 7 nights a week.
On the morning of October 4th, Marceo Plex was that god. It was Amnesia’s 2015 closing party, and Marceo Plex was wrapping up his set in the glasshouse terrace as rays of sunlight flooded the dance floor. He weaved his final spell with Four Tet’s remix of Opus, to much consternation from the crowd. Four Tet’s take on Opus is still over 9 minutes long; but it’s made entirely of build-up, with none of the glitter-cannon-to-the-face drops. It’s the closest EDM can come to torment: the traffic light that stays forever on orange. The roller-coaster that only climbs.
“Consider this: what if the drop never came? What if that incremental build up of tearing synths and pulsing kick drums wound itself up further and further, your arms outstretching with every climb, your sinewy ligaments strained through anticipation, reaching, nearly reaching something, only it doesn’t end, it keeps stretching, tearing higher, forever and ever…
The entire motion of the blaring track has been for nothing. Gradually you realise the beat has re-emerged without the fever-inducing fanfare you’d been waiting for. It’s a scene of limp disappointment, no finality, infinite expectation, and seemingly no reward. It is a scene that questions exactly what we have come to expect from loud, repetitive, electronic music, playing to a club full of people.”
In Marceo Plex’s set, a realisation that normally gets pushed away to the morning-after is brought back into the night-before: you can only lose yourself in a moment, and moments don’t last. You can’t abandon your self. Forgotten things still exist. In Four Tet’s remix, you lose everything except the knowledge that you’re lost. It’s as haunted and as empty as any cartoon mansion.
We need Four Tet’s remix, because it stops us living for empty promises. You’re probably not living for EDM (although, are you), but we’ll all be orienting our lives towards some moment of fulfillment, some moment when we get what’s been promised. But what if we don’t? What if our god — DJ, partner, or boss — is promising something that they won’t, or can’t, deliver?
Harrison goes on: “Whether he knew it or not, Four Tet (via Maceo Plex), was delivering the beleaguered clubbers of Amnesia an insight into the true motions of life. For really, what is our existence but one long build-up to the low-hanging realisation that ‘the drop’ will never come.”
I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because Opus exists, and it drops like a glitter cannon to the face. It may not give you everything you want, but the drop definitely comes. I don’t buy it because Four Tet’s remix exists. Even flawed and broken promises can give you hope, because those promises remind us that there’s such a thing as fulfillment. They won’t satisfy you, but you can be content with what they lack. They stop you forgetting that you’re hungry.
That’s the heart of it. You can be content in a moment, but never satisfied; because satisfaction isn’t a momentary state. It’s a state of being — a state of eternity. No DJ will satisfy because no DJ can mediate eternal blessing. Until they can, their drop will only ever point beyond itself. No drop will satisfy because forgetting for a moment isn’t the same as finding forever. In reality, a drop can only be a precursive, boulder-splitting double snare — the shadow of something to come.
Be content in the moment, but don’t lose yourself. Find yourself in that moment, in a crowd of hungry people, and never forget that you hunger for more. Be content in the moment, but never satisfied. For satisfaction, look for a god who can promise eternity. You’ll know who that is, because not even death will be able to hold him down.