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 subgenre "progressive house".[6]


Progressive house emerged after the first wave of house music.[7] The roots of progressive house can be traced back to the early 1990s rave and club scenes in the United Kingdom.[8] In 1992, Mixmag described it as the time as a "new breed of hard but tuneful, banging but thoughtful, uplifting and trancey British house."[6] 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.[7] 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.[9] According to DJ Dave Seaman, the sound faced a backlash in the early '90s because “it had gone the same way as progressive rock before it. Pompous, po-faced and full of its own self importance. But basically was really quite boring."[8]

Notable early productions[edit]

According to American DJ/producer duo Gabriel & Dresden, Leftfield's October 1990 release "Not Forgotten" was possibly the first progressive house production.[10] The record label Guerilla Records, set up by Will Orbit, is thought to have been pivotal in the growth of a scene around the genre.[10] Renaissance: The Mix Collection in 1994 and Northern Exposure in 1996 have both been credited with establishing the genre on mixed compilation albums. As well as Guerilla Records, the labels Deconstruction Records, Hooj Choons and Soma Records contributed to the scene's development in the early to mid-'90s.[8] In June 1992, Mixmag published a list that contained what the magazine viewed as the top progressive house tracks at that time.[6]

Stylistic elements[edit]

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According to Dave Seaman, house DJs who had originally played what was known as Eurodance borrowed from that the genre.[8] This led to a commercial sound that people associate with progressive house today.[8] Seaman notes that with the various lines between genres having become so blurred that true progressive house is often found "masquerading" as techno, tech house or even deep house.[8] As such, the music can feature elements derived from by styles such as dub, deep house and Italo house.[11]

The progressive sound can be distinguished from the later dream trance and vocal trance. It tends to lack anthemic choruses, crescendos and drum rolling.[11] Intensity is added by the regular addition and subtraction of layers of sound.[12] Phrases are typically a power of two number of bars and often begin with a new or different melody or rhythm.[13]

Later progressive house tunes often featured a build-up section which can last up to four minutes. This is followed by a breakdown and then a climax.[13] 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.[14] The more experimental parts of house music are described as progressive.[15] Detractors of the genre have described it as elitist and over-produced.[9]

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 g Phillips, Dom, Trance-Mission, Mixmag, June 1992.
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Simon Huxtable (11 August 2014). "What is Progressive House?". Decoded Magazine. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Scott, Mireille (1999). Rave America: New School Dancesscapes. ECW Press. p. 134. ISBN 1550223836. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Gabriel & Dresden (1 October 2014). "How to Talk to Your Kids About Progressive House". Insomniac. Insomniac Holdings. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. ISBN 1593764774. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Price, Emmett George (2010). "House music". Encyclopedia of African American Music 3. ABC-CLIO. p. 406. ISBN 0313341990. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Electronica Genre Guide: Progressive". Music Faze. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  14. ^ Borthwick, Stuart; Ron Moy (2004). Popular Music Genres: An Introduction. Edinburgh University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0748617450. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  15. ^ 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. 

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