Progressive house

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Progressive house is a style (subgenre) of house music. The progressive house style emerged in the early 1990s. It initially developed in the United Kingdom as a natural progression of American and European house music of the late 1980s.[1]


In the context of popular music the word "progressive" was first used widely in the 1970s to differentiate experimental forms of rock music from mainstream styles. Such music attempted to explore alternate approaches to rock music production.[2] Some acts also attempted to elevate the aesthetic values of rock music by incorporating features associated with classical instrumental music. This led to a style of music called progressive rock, which has been described as "the most self-consciously arty branch of rock." [3]

In disco music, and later house music, a similar desire to separate more exploratory styles from standard approaches saw DJs and producers adopting the word "progressive" to make a distinction. According to the DJ and producer Carl Craig, the term "progressive" was used in Detroit in the early '80s in reference to Italo disco.[4] The music was dubbed "progressive" because it drew upon the influence of Giorgio Moroder's Euro disco rather than the disco inspired by the symphonic sound of Philadelphia soul.[4] In Detroit, prior to the emergence of techno, artists like Alexander Robotnick, Klein + M.B.O. and Capricorn filled a vacancy left after disco's demise in America.[4][5] In the late 1980s, UK music journalist Simon Reynolds introduced the term "progressive dance" to describe album oriented acts such as 808 State, The Orb, Bomb the Bass and The Shamen. Between 1990 to 1992, the term "progressive" referred to the short-form buzz word for the house music sub-genre "progressive house".[6]

Stylistic elements[edit]

by Chicane featuring Bryan Adams' processed vocals.

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The genre was distinctly English with harmonic and trancey sounds such as extended synthesizer washes. It features elements of dub, deep house, Italo house, big riffs and extended track lengths.[7] The style distinguished itself from dream trance and vocal trance by the lack of anthemic choruses, crescendos and drum rolling.[7] Intensity is added by the regular addition and subtraction of layers of sound.[8] Phrases are typically a power of two number of bars and often begin with a new or different melody or rhythm.[9]

Progressive house tunes often feature a build-up section which can last up to four minutes. This is followed by a breakdown and then a climax.[9] Elements drawn from the progressive rock genre include the use of extended or linked-movement tracks, more complexity and reflection but almost always within the four on the floor rhythm pattern.[10] The more experimental parts of house music are described as progressive.[11] Detractors of the genre have described it as elitist and over-produced.[12]


Progressive house emerged after the first wave of house music.[13] The roots of progressive house can be traced back to the early 1990s rave and club scenes in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and Northern America. A combination of US house, UK house, Italian house, German house, and techno largely influenced one another during this era.[6] The term was used mainly as a marketing label to differentiate new rave house from traditional American house.[6] Progressive house was a departure from the Chicago acid house sound.[13] The buzz word emerged from the rave scene around 1990 to 1992, describing a new sound of house that broke away from its American roots.[6] The label progressive house was often used interchangeably with trance in the early years.[6] Progressive house has been described as anti-rave as its popularity rose in English clubs as the more hardcore, dance focused styles flourished at raves.[12]

Notable early productions[edit]

In June 1992, Mixmag published a list that contained what the magazine viewed as the top progressive house tracks at that time.[6]


The 2000s and 2010s saw multiple new sounds in house music developed by numerous DJs. Sweden knew a prominence of snare-less "Swedish progressive house" with the emergence of Eric Prydz, Alesso, Avicii, and Swedish House Mafia, a supergroup consisting of Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell and Steve Angello. This new style found a growing mainstream attention since the end of the 2000s, also thanks to the spread through international music festivals such as Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival. Avicii's 2010 hit, "Levels" fairly represents this style.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gerard, Morgan; Sidnell, Jack. Popular Music and Society 24.3 (Fall 2000): 21-39.
  2. ^ Kevin Holm-Hudson (2008).Genesis and the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,Ashgate, p.75, (ISBN 0754661474).
  3. ^ Michael Campbell (2008).Popular Music in America, Schirmer, p.251, (ISBN 0495505307).
  4. ^ a b c Reynolds, S., Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture (New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 16.
  5. ^ Reynolds, S., Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture (New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 22.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Phillips, Dom, Trance-Mission, Mixmag, June 1992.
  7. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. ISBN 1593764774. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Price, Emmett George (2010). "House music". Encyclopedia of African American Music 3. ABC-CLIO. p. 406. ISBN 0313341990. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Electronica Genre Guide: Progressive". Music Faze. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Borthwick, Stuart; Ron Moy (2004). Popular Music Genres: An Introduction. Edinburgh University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0748617450. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Mattingly, Rick (2002). The Techno Primer: The Essential Reference for Loop-based Music Styles. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 36. ISBN 0634017888. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Scott, Mireille (1999). Rave America: New School Dancesscapes. ECW Press. p. 134. ISBN 1550223836. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Bogdanov, Vladimir (2001). All music guide to electronica: the definitive guide to electronic music. Backbeat Books. p. xiii. ISBN 0879306289. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 

External links[edit]