DT Opinion Piece: May We Live In Progressive Times
2017. Times are a-changin’! Like fashion, music trends come and go in cycles. Not only is electronic music primed to draw inspiration from other styles of music, it is especially adept at re-inventing itself. To reimagine. In recent times we have witnessed another facet – it’s ability to recycle. Everybody loves a comeback! But as we say goodbye to 2016, it wasn’t an artist, but a genre, which underwent a revival.
Whisper it quietly, but progressive house is back! Its biggest advocates will probably tell you it never truly went away. But truth be told it spent some time in the wilderness. It became a dirty-phrase for a while. All too-often it was used to categorise the kind of drop-heavy, mass produced dross peddled by Spinnin Records and sold to braying white teens Stateside. Big on impact; low on substance. Tracks that weren’t quite electro; not quite big room house either.
Whisper it quietly, but progressive house is back!
Tarred by the commercial success of Swedish House Mafia and the inevitable wave of producers that their success spawned, “progressive house” was sentenced to the doldrums. Chastised and maligned. It wasn’t so much that progressive house itself fell out of favour, it was more a case that it was pushed from the nest by a masquerading cuckoo. The misinformed didn’t care that what they were being fed wasn’t true progressive house. All they cared about was craving their appetite for more of the same. And more of the same they got. In abundance.
Beatport must accept its share of culpability for progressive house being left out in the cold. The world’s largest digital electronic music store recently announced that they are re-categorising their entire back catalogue. A mammoth task. They even went as far to acknowledge that incorrect genre labels was their customers’ biggest gripe. If your core demographic comprises of DJs and music aficionados, it’s safe to assume there will be a degree of pedantry when it comes to classifying music!
Recently we’ve seen a reconciliation. Some of house & techno’s biggest talents have been happy to refer to their productions as having “proggy” elements. 2016 also saw progressive house’s 2 biggest poster boys from back in the day – Sasha & Digweed – reunite after a long hiatus. Sure, their sound may have evolved from what they were playing in their 90s heyday. But if you listen carefully you can still hear the undeniable influence of prog in the music that they play.
Somewhat ironically, progressive house’s emancipation can be attributed to EDM – the very movement which threatened its credibility in the first place. Scene commentators have been alluding to an impending global downturn in EDM for a while now. The EDM community is fully aware that their market is unsustainable. We are seeing more devoted fans migrate towards the underground – to authentic house music; to techno – whilst more casual fans are simply moving onto the next trend. EDM has had no option but to adapt. In a bid to prove their authenticity, they too have looked to the underground. The ‘deep house’ explosion – another misnomer – seemed like a logical escape route.
A new wave of EDM artists began to emerge. Acts such as Disciples, Oliver Heldens & Tchami represent the middle-ground between EDM and the underground. The growth of their associated sub-genres – future and tropical house – was a conscious, fabricated mutation. These new “genres” are little more than a re-branding exercise. They are merely EDM under a different guise. On the surface this new wave of EDM certainly appears less brash than its predecessor. Yet it’s still largely formulaic. And, ultimately, unit-driven. Indirectly this has opened the door. One of the side-effects of this shift is that progressive house has been unchained from its shackles.
Finally, we couldn’t end an article on progressive house without mentioning a certain Eric Prydz. The undisputed champion of progressive house. A man who can seemingly do no wrong. As respected amongst the underground, as he is revered by the EDM contingent. Very few producers have managed to walk the tight-rope between chart-success (‘Call On Me’, ‘Proper Education’) and that of reputable sound of the underground (under his Cirez D moniker). But Prydz has. He’s excelled at it. And it doesn’t seem to matter under which alias he produces under. The quality of his material is never compromised.
Eric’s reputation in our often-fickle scene was put into context when his name alone sold out Creamfield’s 15,000 capacity Steelyard in just over an hour. On Saturday 27th May, Cream & WHP Manchester collaborate to bring the highly anticipated EPIC 5.0 to London’s Victoria Park. It’s the first UK EPIC (Eric Prydz In Concert) for 5 years – the last being 2011’s 3.0 at Alexandra Palace. And it’ll be the only 2017 European date for the show, he also returns to South West Four this summer. As ever it will be a feast for the senses. Expect nothing less than awe-inspiring visuals, high-grade lasers, jaw-dropping production and sound levels worthy of the spectacle.
Electronic music will continue to evolve. To reposition. It is, afterall, led by technology. Sub-genres not yet conceived probably don’t have a shelf-life long enough to see out the year. Already in 2017 there are mumours of a “lo-fi house” movement. Whatever that is. Whether progressive house’s will continue to build on its 2016 success remains to be seen. But here at Data Transmission we are confident that it’ll be around for a few years to come. In some form or another. We raise our glass to it. Don’t call it a comeback! It never went away.
Data Transmission Progressive House Playlist
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