The New Face of Prog Rock

Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Feb. 3, 1978

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

By the early 1970s, progressive rock had taken over the music industry, with a ‘60s-era economic boom contributing to longer, more expensive and sophisticated recordings. Progressive rock, or “prog” as it later came to be known, found rock music drifting away from a dance-oriented approach, its most prominent bands instead shifting to a more immersive headphone-listening experience. Bands such as King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer paired unconventional and experimental songwriting with narrative concepts, sometimes incorporating them into LP side-length suites. Other scenes emerged as prog evolved, such as the jazz-influenced Canterbury scene (Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Caravan), the more electronics-heavy krautrock scene in Germany (Can, Neu!, Harmonia), and the much less song-oriented experiments of avant-prog (Magma, Univers Zero, Henry Cow).

Progressive rock today maintains the ornate instrumentation and ambition of its classic era, but as rock music itself evolved, so has prog. The recording budgets may not be what they once were, but contemporary prog bands still see beyond stylistic boundaries, embracing the instrumental skill and complex songwriting of the genre’s creators while finding new ways to evolve and change its shape. Some of them favor air-tight composition while others delve into improvisational spaces, but they all are redefining progressive rock in their own way.