You would struggle to name an ambient record label that has stood the test of time since, let's say, the early 1990's. Many labels that come to mind are either now defunct, or stayed the course by diversifying their catalog into more electronic sounds, pioneering the IDM wave in the early 00's, or diving into other genres in the latter 2000's. It's of no surprise given the volatility of the industry over the years and the time and effort that goes into running a label. Perhaps, it's an over-generalization to make such a statement, given the importance of many smaller labels that make up a thriving genre of music, but a purely ambient label over 20-years old is undoubtedly a rarity.
Looking back at those that fell by the way-side, I don't think anyone would disagree when I say Silent Records was one of the pioneering ambient music labels that we wished had continued its course since its dominance in the early 1990's.
The San Francisco based label founded by Kim Cascone in 1986, helped establish the ambient sound we came to love in the 1990's. It's a hard style to describe and is instead often described by its connotations with the 'chill-out' room, eventually leading to the very name 'chill-out'. But as Kim admits, "I'd be hard pressed to describe the aesthetic to anyone... just that you'll know it when you hear it". In fact, Silent Records sat in the very centre of the chill-out culture we now come to associate with the likes of The KLF, Biosphere, or The Orb. Kim Cascone was at the helm of a label that little did he know, would have an impact for years to come:
"It was a very different world then. Silent started life as an experimental industrial label in 1986 but as the company grew we found ourselves in the middle of 90's San Francisco chill room culture. Some of the industrial artists were branching out and making ambient, drone or dark ambient/illbient music, so we went with the flow, but insisted on keeping it diverse. That being said, the chill room culture was very strong in the early 90's and it was easy to get pulled along with it. Needless to say, it was a very interesting time to run an ambient label in San Francisco".
Silent Records went on to release an enticing catalog that I won't even begin to pretend to know extensively (instead, check out this ambientmusicguide.com feature). Like the magic of Pete Namlook and his FAX label, Kim grew a notable collective of artists, introducing people to a style of music that was still finding its place at the time. But, with Kim undertaking new ventures in 1996, Silent came to a close soon after.
The one good thing us ambient fans have come to realize, is that this style of music is timeless. It isn't restrained by styles or trend, and with the 'chill-out' rooms now effectively an online analogy, ambient music doesn't need a reason to exist - just the fact its beloved music is enough, and today's tools make it easier to reach audiences of old and new.
After a hiatus of nearly 20-years and with little fanfare, Kim unknowingly began to put Silent back on the map.
"Last year I suffered from a sudden bout of knee inflammation which prevented me from touring, so being someone who hates not being busy I pitched the idea of a streaming radio station comprised of Silent's back catalog to Rusty at SomaFM. When we met at SomaFM to discuss details he asked me if I had ever considered rebooting Silent Records. The idea had never really occurred to me".
Kim goes on to describe that it was never an intention to reboot the label, but with his injury; "It felt like the universe was giving me distinct marching orders". That, combined with a push by James Healy (Air Texture), resulted in the resurrection of Silent this year and with it, two very special releases.
Like all good decisions, it was grounded in his love for the music and the label he cultivated all those years back: "What really inspired me to reboot Silent was reconstructing the Silent roster and releasing new work by them". The result, is two new compilations, titled "From Here To Tranquility Volume 6 - The Renaissance" and "From Here To Tranquility Volume 7 - The Renaissance continues".
Kim affectionately describes the new label collective as "The Silent All Stars (minus the few that have passed away or were unable to contribute)". The compilations also presented Kim with an opportunity to continue the strong ethos of the label - "an incubator of sorts where the artists can develop new work and grow artistically" with the new compilations also accommodating newer faces we respect here at ASIP such as Ethernet.
Not stopping here, next year will see releases by, 23 Degrees, Deeper Than Space, Meterpool as well as some new additions to the family.
The resurrection of the label is undoubtedly some of the best news to hit the music world recently given the respect and admiration the label garnered over the years. And to celebrate, the man who perhaps gave Kim the final push to start it all again has compiled an exclusive mix for us here on ASIP. Featuring tracks ranging as far back as 1993, alongside tracks from the recent releases, we're treated to a timeless excursion through the Silent catalog by James Healy, titled '30 Years of Silent Records and the From Here to Tranquility Series – The Mix'.
Visit Silent Records on Bandcamp for the latest compilations, and the ever appearing, legendary back-catalog.
01. Hyperdelicious – Tales of Suspense (FHTT Volume I) 1993
02. Ambient Temple of Imagination - Thee All Importance of Imagination (FHTT Volume V) 1996
03. Entrancing Iris – Sub-Ocean (FHTT Volume III) 1994
04. Tylervision – The Last Human (FHTT Volume II) 1993
05. Lightwave – Infinite vs Unfinished (FHTT Volume IV) 1995
06. Dialux Rouge – Zircon (FHTT Volume III) 1994
07. Psychic Surfers of Zuvuya – Infiltrate (FHTT Volume III) 1994
08. Omegatribe – Panacea (FHTT Volume III) 1994
09. Heavenly Music Corporation – Octal (FHTT Volume V) 1996
10. Dirk Serries – The Mirrored Dominion (FHTT Volume VII) 2016
11. Spice Barons – Spice of God (FHTT Volume I) 1993
12. Atmosphere Factory – Spring Rain (FHTT Volume VI) 2016
13. Robin Parmar – Shadow (FHTT Volume VII) 2016
14. 23 Degrees – The End of New Beginnings (FHTT Volume IV) 1995
All tracks taken selected from the From Here to Tranquility Series.