You’ve heard the arguments, seen the disgruntled tweets – perhaps even pondered the Beatport chart in your own time. Whichever way you look at it, few genre handles have been as widely discussed and challenged as that of progressive house. Be it the historic workings of such British pioneers as John Digweed and Sasha or such vocal genre advocates as Eric Prydz, its reign upon the modern dance floor has often been misunderstood, but never truly shaken in spite of the commercial overhaul.
A melodically refined concoction of upfront euphoria and strong melodic composure, the sound has often been referenced as a bastard child of both trance and underground techno, but has continued to sail on the merits of providing an aural canvas as powerful as it is provocative. Perhaps one of the most subtle and artistic sub-handles to evolve from days of more uplifting focus, its pioneers have continued to adapt a “less-is-more” mantra that firmly separates it from the pounding kicks and two-tone synths now dominating the digital market. The waters may have muddied where the coinage of this genre is concerned, but a select handful of artists have remained true to its overarching values, offering enough encouragement to the fact that despite the abundance of commercial electro house being falsely attributed to it, progressive house still has its share of well-versed disciples. Dancing Astronaut digs deep to showcase the artists keeping this often-misconstrued genre alive for 2013.
Past the earlier ranks of Digweed and Sasha, Eric Prydz remains one of the most influential forces to be associated with this sub-genre. As the man who showed global club land how to light a room with the most subtle of drops, not even a spree of commercially poised hits could deter this industrious ship from the course that has forged him as a global ambassador to the sound. Between Prydz, Pryda and Cirez D, any possible emotion can be evoked from his sparing releases and domineering sets. Having won over Vegas and maintained his cool post-major label success with sets tailored almost exclusively from his own material and edits, his passion for progressive house remains an infectious entity to the modern market.
With so much talk of the filter house heyday, it is easy to overlook the noise brewing outside of France’s national comfort zone. Cue Parisian breakout Arias, whose returning grace upon the digital market has not gone unnoticed second time around. Initially championed alongside Arno Cost for “The Days To Come,” a brief silence and subsequent return saw him embody the gripping. Peak time productions and divine melodic sound scopes in tow, the likes of latest Olympia Records offering “Solaris” emphasize that in the age of the big drop, the progressive anthem can still hold its corner. If ever you needed fuller-bodied proof of the the French overhaul past RAM and its robotic curators, Arias may just be his nations Pièce de résistance where this genre is concerned.
If there was ever a positive overlap of the euphoria of trance and the technicalities of progressive house, Canadian Breakout Colin Fisher, A.K.A. Soundprank, has remained its golden boy. As classically trained musician, Fisher’s ability to match outspoken euphoria with soundtrack like production values has framed him as one of the more cutting-edge faces to frequent Anjunabeats of the past two years. A vocal advocate of sound quality and compositional substance, the young producer’s musical journey looks to only be on the rise. Hint of future label ventures making now the perfect time to tune in to this outspoken talent and his unashamedly uplifting studio form. If Hans Zimer did dance music, he would most likely hold Soundprank in high regard.
Question: What do drum & bass and progressive house have in common? Answer: Very little, until Andre Sobota came along. Known traditionally on the floor as Brazilian beat smith Bungle, his ability to fuse raw instrumentation and diverse melodic composure has forged him as one of the more versatile progressive assets to reclaim the Beatport charts of late. From Pryda Friends breakout “Voyager” and subsequent Toolroom venture “Saviour,” Sobota’s weird and wonderful soundscapes never fail to turn heads and remain unlikely to go unnoticed by those craving respite from the big room overhaul. Making great haste with unconventional force, you would struggle to find a label juggler with the same consistency as that of Bungle’s slower-paced sobriquet.
For an artist whose earlier childhood fixations included technology, Michael Jackson and East Coast hip hop, Jeremy Olander has been a hard artist to spearhead. By the time 2013’s “Let Me Feel” had hit the digital market, however, there were few who could deny that this valiant Swedish artist spelt necessary change for genre and industry alike. Fusing intricate melodic progressions with minimalistic drops, Jeremy’s calling card has not only been the ability to fuse big room appeal and underground aptitude, but then spoon feed it to the masses. Whislt his Dhillon moniker has kept the techno ranks in order, his ongoing bond with Pryda Friends continues to epitomize the life and times of one of the more organic and unpretentious breakouts of his time.
Time has told that John Digweed does not simply hand out album duties to anyone. With two full-length offerings to his name and an inaugural notch on the Balance compilation series for 2013, Israel’s Guy J has quickly become an inseparable asset to his craft. Leaping between vivid instrumental techno and subtle installments of full-bodied progressive house, the recent unveiling of his Lost & Found imprint has seen a wealth of new blood pumped into the digital market, offering some his finest solo exploits to date along the way. As another artist unafraid to test the lifeblood of underground club appeal, Guy’s spotless track record for recorded excellence and intimately strewn-out DJ sets make him an international asset not to be ignored. A word to the wise: keep eyes peeled for album number three!
Having cut his teeth on the Manchester club circuit some years ago, Norwegian Pryda Friend Fehrplay sits far from the atypical sound of Scandinavian club land. Breaking out with “Meow” for Ministry of Sound in 2009 and subsequently hitting Prydz’s label with back-to-back progressive bombs, his ability to drive deep and underground vibes into the genre’s core has continued to separate Jonas Von Der Fehr from the crowd. In the year that saw him extensively blaze the North American club circuit alongside both Eric Prdyz and label peer Jeremy Olander, the releases have remained on top form throughout. With his next label offering said to return to the euphoric scope of “Phantom,” Fehrplay is another talent mixing it up for the masses without compromise.
Where Israel’s clubbing legacy may not have been rigorously documented, Gay Mantzur remains an outright success story to emerge from its fertile shores. A master of the hypnotic melody with label duties for 2013 alone including Sudbeats, Lost & Found and DAR, Mantzur’s output continues to drive deep into the journey-like intimacy of modern progressive house. Past the global club and festival credentials, he continues to shine the light for Tel Aviv’s renowned Cat N Dog club/imprint, adding to his global clubbing credentials considerably. Guy remains an inherent innovator and live dance evangelist at a time when the genre and its fast expanding fan base needs it most.