This week I got a surprise: Silent Records - the legendary 90's ambient electronica label - is back.
"I’d been a fan of the web radio station Soma FM for many years and out-of-the-blue I had the idea of creating a station for Soma FM that played the back catalog of Silent Records. I sent them an email and within an hour I received a response saying they were totally on board with this idea and set up a time to meet with me.
"During the meeting the founder, Rusty Hodges, floated the idea of my restarting the label. I found the prospect of running a label again overwhelming and dismissed the idea out of hand. Later on while chatting with a friend, who also runs a label, I mentioned my meeting with SomaFM and he said that I definitely “had to reboot Silent,” “that I owed it to the fans and the artists” and informed me that an almost cult-like fan base had developed in the 18 year dormancy.
"This was news to me because I had been out of touch with the ambient scene since selling the label in 1996. After discussing matters further with friends I found the idea to be less daunting that I had originally thought because I could do almost everything digitally now."
The San Francisco-based Silent Records disappeared in 1998, closing down two years after Cascone sold it. It's best years were 1992-1996, during which it released some of ambient dance music's most beautiful, trippiest and enduring chillout music.
The Silent releases of this period grew out of the same post-rave creative ferment which across the Atlantic was fueling the likes of the classic Artificial Intelligence series from Britain's Warp Records, ambient label Fax Records, the wonderful Chill Out Or Die series from UK dance label Rising High, and the output of Instinct Records on the U.S. East coast. Silent's best releases often reflect the label's West Coast origins and San Francisco's history of alternative culture, with themes ranging across psychedelia, space travel, consciousness expansion, spiritual ecology and renderings of imaginary and alien worlds.
Cascone has started with a re-release of 13 selected albums from the back catalogue. Many Silent classics are among them, most notably the four stellar albums by Cascone's own Heavenly Music Corporation and the various artists compilation Unidentified Floating Ambience.
He has also released two brand new compilations - the 6th and 7th entries in Silent's much loved From Here To Tranquility series. There are a number of sub-labels, too, and he says more new music is coming this year and beyond.
I'm totally thrilled that Cascone has resurrected the label. I never expected we would hear again from any of the record labels that drove that first, glorious 90's wave of ambient dance. Does more greatness await? If the two new comps are anything to go by, most definitely.