I've been listening to a lot of progressive house recently. I have no idea why, as it's never been an area which has particularly interested me - not because I take issue to its musical vanguard attitude, but rather because I tend to gravitate to dance music with da funk - jungle, hip hop, garage, big beat, jack house etc. But something about the glacial atmospheres of prog house has been sounding very fine over the last few days. You know the drill: Leftfield, Underworld, Spooky, Moody Boys, D.O.P., The Drum Club, Sasha & Digweed mix cds.... Long wanky ambient intros, pounding 4/4 kick drums with the occasional clattering breakbeat, clickity-clackity percussion simulating tribal rhythms, sensuous synth washes... It would be easy to hold the self-conscious "intelligence" and "refinement" of prog house against it, but the whole club vs. rave schism seems so distant now that I can quite happily take this music for what it is - excellently produced dance music.
The Drum Club's Drums Are Dangerous album in particular is exquisitly nuanced, soundscaped mood music set to a beat, achieving that soundtrack-style bittersweet vibrancy I'd usually expect from Spring Heel Jack or Orbital. Even something like Future Sound Of London's "Cascade", which normally I would dismiss as overworked ambient fluf, now entrances me with its gloopy rhythms and bright, cosmic keyboards, somewhere between The Orb and Tangerine Dream. I don't think my musical tastes are changing so much as accomodating. I feel like I could like anything now if I just put my mind to it. A good or a bad thing? All I know is that if you play some of this stuff back to back with Missy you'll suffer a major attack of dissonance. I learned the hard way.