Is Progressive House the grown-up, more sophisticated sibling of house music?
Or is it: it’s totally boring and tedious uncle?
For me, it can be either of the above. So I suppose it depends on who produced it…and which DJ is playing it.
What is Progressive House Music?
Progressive House Music is a subgenre of house music that emerged out of the UK in the early ’90s.
At the time, it marked a natural evolution from the North American and European house rhythms that were dominating the clubbing scene.
What sets this style apart are its complex chord structures and intricate melodies that can be rich and immersive.
With a fairly tight tempo range of 125 to 135 beats per minute, the genre is known for its methodical build-up of energy through adding and subtracting musical layers.
Progressive House focuses on harmonies and melodies, employing effects to craft a spacious and interesting soundscape.
Unlike more aggressive forms of electronic dance music, there is a definite emphasis on musicality over sheer power.
Progressive House opts for a more melodic approach, providing a thoughtful contrast to the harder, more percussive beats that can sometimes dominate dance floors.
I don’t know, do you want “thoughtful” when you go out clubbing?..I’m not sure I do!
A Very Brief History of Progressive House
In the early 1990s, the UK rave scene was giving birth to an array of new music genres.
During this exciting time (it genuinely was exciting; I haven’t just said that for the sake of hoopla), Progressive House emerged as a distinctive sound within the dance music scene.
It was an era marked by creative experimentation, and the scene’s key figures were determined to push the boundaries of what House Music could be.
A journalist, Simon Reynolds, from Mixmag, a British dance music and clubbing magazine, coined a term that captured the essence of this new genre.
He described Progressive House as a “new breed of hard but tuneful, banging but thoughtful, uplifting and trancey British house.”
Influences stretch far beyond the UK.
The genre was heavily shaped by aspects of Detroit techno, which is evident in its rhythmic complexity and use of synthetic sounds.
The genre progressed from underground clubs and onto the global stage due to its captivating, hypnotic melodies and perfectly produced layers of sound.
Characteristics of Progressive House Music
Have I already mentioned complex melodies and perfectly produced layers of sound?
Okay, in that case, let’s try this: Progressive House blends techniques and sounds that captivate with an emotional ride through rhythm and melody.
How do you like them apples?
Okay, seriously now, here are a couple of telltale characteristics of the progressive house sound:
#1. Musical Structure and Production Techniques
Progressive house often adopts a unique musical structure, showcasing a gradual build-up with rising tension before reaching a climactic moment.
It’s common to find tracks with extended breakdowns, creating a sense of anticipation among listeners.
The arrangement typically involves a sequence of intro, build-up, breakdown, climax, and outro.
As for production techniques, they’re meticulous.
Progressive house producers meticulously utilise EQ, dynamic processing, and spatial effects like reverb and delay to craft a perfectly polished sound.
The emphasis on sound design, with a variety of synths and textured soundscapes skillfully layered.
#2. Distinctive Sound Elements
The core of progressive house music’s attraction lies within its distinctive sound elements.
The synths can range from lush and atmospheric to sharp and resonant, and often include memorable melodies that echo throughout the track.
Progressive house also often features a strong, driving bassline that provides depth and warmth to the music.
#3. 4/4 Time Signature and Beat
Well, this is house music, so of course it’s got to have the four-to-the-floor beat.
A Few Progressive House Artists
The world of progressive house wouldn’t be the same without the indelible impact of artists like Sasha and John Digweed.
Their collaborations and individual contributions have crafted the backbone of the scene.
Swedish House Mafia soared to prominence with their catchy and melodically rich tracks, while Kaskade infused an emotive element that resonated with global audiences.
It’s impossible to discuss the evolution of the sound without mentioning Deadmau5, whose intricate productions have become anthemic within the genre.
In addition, acts like CamelPhat have brought a modern twist to the classic progressive sound.
The late Avicii also contributed significantly with a more mainstream appeal, and his tracks remain timeless within the progressive house scene.
Wrapping it Up!
Is Progressive House great? Or is it just house music made by computer nerds for public schoolboys?
Or maybe even the other way around?