Genre Deep Dive: Progressive House

Progressive house, a genre that seamlessly blends melodic elements with driving beats, has captivated electronic music enthusiasts for decades. Influenced by the British new-age music scene, progressive house found its footing as a bridge between house and trance. It borrows the melodic sensibilities of trance while maintaining the infectious groove and rhythm of house.

The word “progressive” is defined as; “happening or developing gradually or in stages” which perfectly captures the essence of this genre. Unlike traditional house music, which often relies on groovy and repetitive beats, or trance, which features anthemic choruses, crescendos and dramatic drum rolls, progressive house holds an emphasis on complex rhythms and evolving harmonies, taking the listener on a captivating journey. Intensity is added by the regular addition and subtraction of layers of sound. Phrases typically unfold over 4, 8, or 16 bars, often introducing new melodies or rhythms at each turn, keeping the listener engaged and surprised.

Origins and Evolution

Having been influenced by the sounds of house & techno, both of which were founded in the United States, progressive house emerged in the UK underground scene in the early 90s. While the UK already boasted a vibrant rave scene filled with hardcore, garage, and jungle in the 80s and 90s, progressive house offered a distinct alternative. It provided a softer, more melodic counterpoint to the harder styles that dominated the scene.

Sasha & John Digweed

The British duo Sasha and John Digweed played a pivotal role in shaping the genre, known for their groundbreaking mixes and legendary DJ sets that seamlessly blended house, techno, and trance, creating a unique sonic experience. Artists like Eric Prydz and Deadmau5 have been a driving force in the progressive house scene since the early 2000s with hits such as ‘Opus’ and ‘Strobe’.

The mid-to-late 2000s witnessed a significant shift in the dynamic of progressive house, fueled by the rising popularity of trance and electro. This period also marked a gradual influx of pop influences on underground music, as vocals and synthesizers became more common in the genre’s soundscape. A notable trend emerged, emphasizing the break > build-up > drop song structure, a departure from the genre’s earlier tracks, which maintained a consistent energy level throughout their duration. This structural evolution paved the way for a new era of progressive house anthems.

It was during this transformative period that artists like Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta and Hardwell rose to commercial EDM royalty, captivating the mainstages of Ultra Miami and Tomorrowland with their synth-oriented, vocal-infused progressive house hits. Tracks like “Levels” and “Spaceman” became iconic examples of the new progressive house sound.

“These days, true progressive house as I know it is to be found masquerading as Techno, Tech House, or even Deep House! The lines between genres now are so blurred they rarely make much sense anymore!” remarks Dave Seaman, 90’s progressive house originator, and former editor of Mixmag.

Spot a progressive house track with these key features:

  • Melodic and dreamy: Progressive house music often features lush melodies and atmospheric sounds that create a floating, ethereal vibe.

  • Complex rhythms: The melodic foundations are complemented by intricate, layered rhythms that interplay with multiple percussion elements, adding depth and complexity to the groove.

  • Epic build-ups: The tracks typically have long build-ups that gradually increase in intensity, leading to a powerful drop or breakdown.

  • Extended track lengths: Tracks often stretch beyond the typical 3-minute mark, spanning 7 minutes or more, where the music evolves and develops over time.

  • Focus on the Flow: The focus is on creating a musical journey that takes the listener on a sonic adventure, rather than just offering a simple beat to dance to.

Progressive house has seen major transformations to get to where it is today. With the term “progressive” covering a large range of styles with their own nuances, there will be new tracks and artists from all over the world showing off their interpretations of the genre. If you’re looking to explore the best of progressive house music, here are some of my favourite artists:

Worakls: Worakls is renowned for his organic and orchestral instrumentation, which seamlessly blends deep house, techno, and progressive house. His mesmerizing live shows have graced stages at renowned festivals and clubs worldwide, captivating audiences with their cinematic intensity and emotional depth.

Massane: Massane’s tracks often incorporate soaring synth leads and emotional melodies, creating a euphoric soundscape for dancefloors. He’s a regular collaborator with labels like This Never Happened and has shared the stage with progressive house giants like Above & Beyond and Lane 8. What sets him apart is his live act, where he skillfully incorporates his guitar into the mix, adding an organic and emotive layer to his performances.

Tim Engelhardt: Having released his first record at just 14 years old, Tim amassed an impressive portfolio on labels like Traum Schallplatten, Poker Flat Recordings, and Innervisions. His solid pianist background shines through in the care he takes over harmonies and expanded melodic structures.

Klur: Klur has been making waves in the world of melodic house and progressive music. His blend of mellow synths, dazzling melodies, and just the right touch of organic elements, sweep you off your feet and invite you to embrace the sunshine and nature.

Aly & Fila: This Egyptian duo has been producing and performing music together since 1990s. In 2003, they signed with the German record label Euphonic Records, becoming the first Egyptian duo to go international. Their unique blend of uplifting trance and emotional melodies has earned them a dedicated following around the world.

– Mofiasco




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