If there’s anything that we can learn from the history of music it is that we should never stereotype styles of music. We can never say for sure that certain instruments cater to the musical needs of certain people. We should never assume that a particular style of music will only sound enjoyable to a particular group of people. Standardizing music takes the fun out of being a listener. Sure, we will always have our own preferred styles, but that is not to say that we cannot have room to appreciate unfamiliar styles of music.
House is a brand of music that has often been misunderstood. This is partially due to the fact that there are endless variations of House music. This tends to stir up some confusion in the minds of the listeners. Not all of these variations or subgenres are soothing to the ears. Some are a little mellow, while others are more upbeat. Some are groovy, while others sound funky. There is no doubt that all styles of House music have common roots and certain common characteristics. However, with that being said, each House subgenre is different in its own way and has its own loyal fan base. It is also worth noting that some subgenres of House have progressed (no pun intended) ahead of others. To the casual listener, variant styles of House music may sound all the same, but those who have minimal knowledge about House will be easily able to differentiate between the subgenres that are trending and others that are not. In short, one could say that particular subgenres have become more popular than others.
Introducing Progressive House
Progressive House is a prime example of a subgenre of House music that has sped ahead of its cousins in the race of popularity. This is perhaps due to the fact that this subgenre, or at least the modern version of it, is more in line with mainstream pop and can be easily incorporated into the sound tracks that turn out to be a worldwide sensation. It was around the early 1990s that Progressive House came into being. One could consider United Kingdom as the birthplace of modern day Progressive House. The British clubs were the first places where conventional House music from the America and other parts of Europe began to evolve and “progress”. The sounds that were quintessential to House music of the 1980s was then being worked on to sound more edgy and bubbly. This series of alterations and experimentations led to the creation of Progressive House.
Trance had a big role to play in moulding Progressive House into what it is today. In the 1990s, Progressive House strongly resembled Trance music of the decade. However, as the years rolled by, it began to develop characteristics similar to that of Big Room and Euro Dance. By the early 2000s, Progressive House had completely separated from Trance music and was an independent entity of its own. As a sole runner, it began to climb up the ladder of popularity in the world of international music. More and more people got exposed to Progressive House, and it goes without saying that they developed an affinity for it. The development and evolution of Progressive House continued throughout the first decade of the new millennium. The vision of the Progressive House artists was to create a brand of electronic music that would serve as a legitimate alternative to the generic and mainstream pop songs that dominated the charts (and still do today). These artists were quite successful in their endeavours. Whether Progressive House is as good as beloved as any other genre in the world is still up for debate, but one can say for certainty that in the realm of electronic music, Progressive House has firmly fixed itself on the throne. The fact that the genre (or subgenre depending on how you look at it) is rated number one in a list of top genres complied by TopDeejays further validates previously mentioned statement. So what makes this Progressive House a class apart from other subgenres of House? Why are people drawn towards this particular style of electronic music? Is it really as good as people advertise it to be or is it just another variant of music that is transiently in trend? An extensive discussion on the roots and the characteristics of Progressive House music will give us a clear indication of whether the genre is here to stay or not.
Detailed History of Progressive House
As mentioned before, the formation of Progressive House took place after the first wave of House music. If we want to know about the roots of Progressive House, then we have to go all the way back to the 1990s rave and club scenes in the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, clubs in other parts of Europe and Australia also had a hand to play in the creation and development of House music. Some experts would even like to label North America as the birthplace of Progressive House. Whatever the location, one thing is for sure that Progressive House could not have existed (on a mass scale at least) before the advent of the 1990s. Progressive House is seen as an offshoot of the Chicago Acid House sound. The word “Progressive” was coined around the early 1990s and it originated from the rave scene. It was used to describe a new breed of House music that had separated itself from its American roots. According to Gabriel &Dresden, Not Forgotten by Leftfield is the first Progressive House track to have ever been recorded and released. The song came out in the October of 1990. The Guerilla Records that was formed by Will Orbit was an all important factor in the growth of a scene around the genre. Renaissance: The Mix Collection in 1994 and Northern Exposure in 1996 have both been recognized as the pioneers to have introduced the genre in the form of mixed compilation albums. This is not to say that the role of Guerilla Records, Hoj Choons and Soma Records in the birth of Progressive House was of any less importance.
We are already aware of the fact that Trance of the 1990s went hand in hand with the then newborn genre of Progressive House. Truth be told, they could actually be used interchangeably. Such was the similarity between the two genres. Anyone, who didn’t have sound knowledge of Trance or Progressive House could easily mistake the one for the other. It was during that time that Progressive House picked up the nickname of being the anti-rave genre. It’s popularity was steadily increasing in England. Progressive House escalated to a state of significance in a very short time. In the year 1989, there were only 20 released tracks that could be even remotely associated with Progressive House. Within the next year, 1500 tracks of Progressive House was released. Once the popularity was attained, there was no turning back for the new breed genre. Throughout the 2000s, the genre had an iron grip on the electronic and dance charts. As far as the numbers go, 4,500 tracks of Progressive House were being released annually. This was quite a feat for a genre that had been born only a mere 10 or 15 years ago. This immense growth in the popularity of Progressive House has a lot to do with the mainstream acceptance of electronic and dance music. Also, one must realized that Progressive House is a type of genre that does not stay confined within certain bounds. It is used in a much broader sense nowadays. A wide range of genres can be categorized as Progressive House, although many of them do not resemble the early versions of Progressive House that was enjoyed during the late 90s and early 2000s.
Stylistic Elements of Progressive House
From a stylistic point of view, the genre can be dubbed as purely English. This is because of its harmonic and trancey sounds that would included extended synthesizer washes. You can find elements of Dub, Deep House, Italo House, Big Riffs and extended track lengths. In a way, you could label this genre as an all encompassing brand of electronic music. It contains a little bit of everything, and has thus become a world wide favourite. The tempos of the track in a typical Progressive House track will vary from somewhere around 120 to 134 beats per minute. It’s different from Dream Trance and Vocal Trance due to the presence of anthemic choruses, crescendos and drum rolling. The tracks are usually high intense because of the regular addition and subtraction of the layers of sound. The phrases of a model Progressive House track will be a power of two number of bars and they usually kick start with a new or different melody or rhythm.