For for almost 3 decades, 'Progressive' has been blurring the lines between techno, house and trance. It's roots can be traced back to the the early 90's.
In London, the trendy Balearic crowd started to take over West End clubs. Out went their old acid house clobber, off came the long raver hair, in came the short crop, boots & leather pants, frill shirts (for the boys) & feather boas (for the girls, or boys...)
To accompany the style trends on display at these new nights, was a brand new sountrack...
The DJ's on this scene were moving on from playing Disco inspired US House & soulful Garage, high octane Italo Piano Scream up's were no longer the flavour of the day; coming through was a largely UK produced, more heavily percussive style of music - a heady clash of dub, tribal & techno.
Describing this new sound in the 1992 June edition of Mixmag, the article 'Trance Mission', coined the term 'Progressive House'. The journalist was Dom Phillips. He describes, "The style is a music that builds on layers of percussion, that loops simple, funky riffs over and over". "The (artist) names are Leftfield, DOP, Soundclash Republic, React 2 Rhythm, Gat Decor and Slam".
Tracks usually had long builds and were often described as 'taking the listener on a journey'. Stylistically, tunes were typically heavily percussive (Slam's Orde Meikle was quoted as saying, "We like it very percussive, percussive - trancey - dubby"); they were also bass heavy, with elements such as tribal chants, eastern rhythms, featuring melodic piano breakdowns, with ethereal & gated vocals.
Full Circle's Phil Perry said "It's taken all the influences from the Euro stuff and the American stuff.. Re-package(d) in a way that's uniquely British". "Layers of percussion, subliminal noises. The all essential nice melody". The labels to look out for were Hard Hands, Guerilla, Soma, Cowboy, Limbo ...
In DJ set's, the records on these labels would often be mixed with deep US house, such as David Morales' Red Zone dubs, Murk productions and Wild Pitch style records. Trancey Euro house was also a key feature - productions from German duo Jam & Spoon and tracks on Sven Vath's Eye Q imprint were prominent. Tougher music would come in the form of Vath's other label Harthouse and Belgian Techno label R&S, mixed with more military drum led offernings from Dutch label Wonka (which pioneering DJ & Producer Andy Weatherall would play at the 'Drum Club', in with early Sabres of Paradise records).
Artist's started to name check key club nights in their productions, Leftfield & Justin Robertson's 'Love Ranch' inspired remixes are an early example. Love Ranch was a club night where resident DJ Rad Rice would play this new music to an entranced hedonistic (& record industry heavy) crowd - The now famous hand painted banner hanging at the back of the stage read "This is where it's fucking at". This was a scene with a whole new attitude.
As things proceeded Fabio Paras released the 1st of many bongo/timbale led productions for
Cowboy Records, name checking 'Strutt' along the way, Soho's 'Tag Records' was a (lose) anagram for 'Gat Decor' releasing the seminal progressive anthem 'Passion' - the 'Naked Mix' championed at the producers own 'Naked Lunch' night, the track went on to be remixed by Underworlds Darren Emmerson.
This wasn't just a London centric scene or sound - it was a nationwide movement in club culture. Progressive House could be heard from South to North, Brightons 'The Zap', Scotlands 'Sub Club' & 'Rhumba'... it was everywhere inbetween.
This was 1992, & Progressive House was fast establishing itself as 'the' sound on the nations cooler dancelfoors.
At 'Full Circle', an industry heavy Sunday club hosted by Phil Perry at the Greyhound pub in Berkshire was a melting pot of ideas, the sountrack was X-Press 2 & S.A.S. Darren Rock said "When we were making 'Muzik Xpress' I can remember having my mind on the dancefloor at Full Circle". This was where Tony Humphries played Clive Henry's (now resident at DC10 in Ibiza's) first record, 'Amber Groove', reputedly 3 times in 3 hours in the same set.
Sasha & Digweed remixed in the name of their then new (now infamous) residency at 'Renaissance' in Nottinghamshire. The duo went on to release the 1st ever Club Compilation mix CD entitled 'The Mix Collection', & Renaissance became the 1st brand associated intrinsically with the Progresive House sound.
We like the description written in Melody Maker (December 1992):
'Progressive House - an attitude - a state of mind - rather than a sound'.
The aforementioned labels & club nights, producers & DJ's, are just some of the key players in the birth of, & development of what is known as Progressive House. Over time, we'll further explore, & expand upon all this, in the content of the Blog.
Words: Marcus Harriman.
The aim of this Blog is to act as an informative archive, of tracks, DJ mixes, club memorabilia, flyers, articles & interviews across the broad range of music that fits into the “Progressive House” genre, focussing on the origins & early evolution of the scene.
We will regularly update the page with new content and will feature exclusive DJ mixes.
We hope you will enjoy visiting, listening in, & discovering (& sharing) the music that we love.
We'd welcome any content contributions you may be able to offer - anything relating to dance music culture & our passion for Progressive House music, so please do feel free to get in touch.
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Progressive House Classics: Jay Dobie, Wasim Afzal & Marcus Harriman