|Overview: Silent Records - Independent Music Label|
Silent Records grew out of the fervent tape-trading industrial scene of the 1980's, and came to fruition under the guidance of owner and musician Kim Cascone in the mid-1990's, amidst the expansion of the rave and chill-out scene on the West Coast. Cascone, having attended Berklee College of Music in the 1970's and studied electronic music there, brought the label into existence out of a desire to have a greater control over his own material, and continued on with music from the California and Colorado experimental and industrial scenes.
After a hiatus of a few years, Silent returned in 1990 with a split CD from Arcane Device and Cascone's project PGR, and underwent a period of expansion. As more and more demo tapes came to the label's attention, the label's sound moved more towards an ambient-techno-dub realm, trying to reflect the cross-pollination of genres and ideas that were occurring in that time and place. While raves grew in size and popularity all over the U.S., Silent came to embody the more introspective, mystical and organic artistic endeavors that went hand-in-hand with the highly synthesized rave mentality. From 1990 to 1996, Silent released over fifty albums on its own imprint, while spawning three sub-labels to release industrial, indie, and dance material. Tangentially related artists from this time of growth ranged from Psychic TV and Susumu Yokota to Steve Roach and Robert Rich.
In 1996, Cascone sold Silent to a colleague, and the repertoire broadened yet again to include trance, drum'n'bass, vinyl dance singles, and an IDM sampler licensed from influential UK label Skam. Around 1997, the label ceased to exist.
Listeners who come across the Silent catalogue will find an array of transcendental sounds, from the granular drones of Chris Meloche and Waveform Transmission to more rhythmic releases from Deep Space Network and Ambient Temple Of Imagination. Cascone's own project, Heavenly Music Corporation, provided engrossing soundscapes with stylistic nods to both new age music and classic acid house. The series of From Here To Tranquility compilations provided a jump-off point for unacquainted listeners, featuring a wide cross-section of music in the realms of ambient, drone, industrial, and ambient dance. Noise and abstract collage material came from artists like The Hafler Trio, Pelican Daughters and Thessalonians. Through its distribution entity, Pulse Soniq, Silent and its sub-labels helped bring ambient and electronic music into American independent record stores, and brought many independent artists out of obscurity. A kind of "golden age" was crystallized amongst its varied albums, capturing a fresh, inventive time when euphoric rave, industrial, and bold ambient texture-making came together in a fervent creative rush. Even now, the music on Silent continues to show its influence, not least of all by the path the label paved to make electronic music a fresh and viable creative realm for American musicians.
- Scott Kelly 28 February 2009
Tune in to the 03.22.09 broadcast of STAR'S END for Scott Kelly's hour-long guest DJ mix presenting tracks from a selection of Silent Records releases