The term progressive, in electronic dance music, refers to a variety of 1990s musical genres that tended to break away from the electronic simplicity of their origins and derive onto new, experimental grounds. The term itself first referred to house and trance music only (as a tendency to develop progression from such simplistic subgenres as deep house and psytrance), but eventually, progressive made its way into the mainstream, and it also started being applied to breakbeat, drum & bass and techno genres.
Roots of progressive can be traced back to the early nineties, when digital technology allowed DJs to beatmatch tracks together, creating the possibility of mixing structural elements of various to then stylistically different genres into one melody. The technique could also be used to indicate progression of one melody into another without the need to interrupt them, as was done before. Both trance and house largely influenced one another during this era (which allowed for appearance of such subgenres as dream house), and even though later minimalist movement opposed progressive around 2000 or 2001, the influence of their fusion is still felt in various electronic dance music tracks today.
Progressive house/trance is the main derivative of the progressive wing. Although no firm classification rules exist, the structure is generally reminiscent of house with notable variations. For example, phrases are usually a power of two number of bars and begin with the introduction of a new or different melody or rhythm. The tempo is a theoretical fusion of both, ranging from approx. 128 to 140 bpm (which is faster than typical earlier house, but slower than the one featured in more recent trance tracks). Such structure is intuitively described as consisting of three major structural elements: (1) build-up; (2) breakdown ; (3) climax. These three structural elements are expressed either temporally or in their intensity, if not both. A 'build-up' sequence can sometimes last up to 3 or even 4 minutes. Subtle incremental/decremental acoustic variations (i.e., gradual addition/subtraction of instruments) anticipate the transition to each subsequent structural element of the track. The initial build-up and the final break-down are generally very similar, adding a feel of symmetry to the general structure of the melody. Furthermore, a progressive trance/house track is usually longer than a regular composition, ranging in length from 8 to 12 minutes (as opposed to 5—6 of radio format).
Although there is a general and increasing tendency to associate progressive trance with progressive house (or vice-versa), virtually rendering these two sub-genres identical, there are however distinctive characteristics apart from the strong similitudes between them: progressive trance inherits from its parent genre (trance) a wider melodic flexibility, while progressive house is usually darker and more minimal. Examples of a resulted two-sided influence in later genre development include Luna Park's Space Melody (1998) and AnnaGrace's Castles in the Sky (2001).
Notable genre DJs include: James Holden, Dave Seaman, Nick Warren, James Zabiela, Eddie Halliwell, Jason Jollins, Hernan Cattaneo, Max Graham, Danny Howells, and Anthony Pappa. DJs who originated from the same branch, but have later on followed trance movement include Laurent Veronnez, Sasha, Mike Dierickx, Matt Darey, Vibrasphere, Miika Kuisma, Brian Transeau (aka BT), Christopher Lawrence and Markus Schulz. Progressive house/trance usual labels include Baroque Records, Bedrock Records, Renaissance, Audiotherapy, Global Underground and Source of Gravity.
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