Not according to McCue, who started the imprint after moving to the small town, from the larger BC capital of Victoria. "It was mainly to give me something to do while living in a smaller city,'" he admits. "When I lived in Victoria there was quite a bit more happening musically. I was DJing quite a bit. But life just got quieter, and it seemed like a natural progression to stay involved with music without necessarily being involved with clubs or DJing anymore."
Setting up shop in the even smaller town of Union Bay, just south of Courtenay, McCue found the scenery inspiring. "I was spending a lot of time outside, whether it was fishing, or hiking, just enjoying sunrises with this music that I was listening to at the time. It all fell into place and felt natural. I guess it's the soft, organic chords that seem to float endlessly. It's not really 'dry' in any way, it's very moist and lush and soft, just like the forests here. It felt like there was a parallel between those sounds and the natural environment."
Anyone will tell you that running a label these days is not an easy endeavour, never mind from a town of 1,200 people in a remote location in the furthest reaches of the West Coast. As one would expect, most of McCue's early connections were primarily online. "To begin with it was just some artists that I connected with through some forums, and I didn't really know what to expect. There were a few other netlabels around at the time that were influential in the decision for starting the label—Thinner, Autoplate, Realaudio—and in terms of early curation, it was mostly people who would listen or people who were interested in the idea of contributing to a new small label."
Silent Season began in 2007 with a 256kbps mp3—a humble beginning, to be sure. There were (and still are) no shortage of netlabels floating around the internet, but Finnish producer Rasmus Hedlund (whom McCue met on the message board mnml.nl), nicely laid out what makes Silent Season stand out from the glut of spaced-out dub techno institutions that blanket the scene. "Dubpression" is a heaving tune that feels bottomlessly deep yet mobile and even sexy, its fluid movements the furthest thing from the machinelike grind of so much techno.
away from the actual party
but hearing the way it echoes..."
"It was a struggle at first, but I was fortunate because I think the hardest part was getting a couple of releases under your belt... from the point [of the second release] it all started to come together," explains McCue. "I wasn't going to parties as much, but just that sound of being in the forest, away from the actual party but hearing the way it echoes through a forest and feels soft... I still remember those moments where it was morning and cold and the music was just right, echoing from just being outside."
Each release, mostly from lesser-knowns like Segue, Organon and Ohrwert, was offered as a free mp3 package through the Silent Season website, as McCue built up more connections with like-minded fans and artists. Eventually, though, McCue's attention turned to more tangible things. "I just thought it would be fun to try out making a limited-run handmade CD, and just offer that to the fanbase. Something to do offline that still involved the music." In McCue's typically environmentalist fashion, he tried his best to ensure that the physical footprint of his label would be as minimal as possible with completely recycled packaging material, assembled by hand in his own home.
"Some CDs become sort of a piece that you want to collect, not just something you put in a shoebox, and I think the cardboard and the recycled look just really adds to that aesthetic." He knows there's still a price to his production however, adding "a CD has already been produced and there is a lot of waste that went into that. Environmental awareness is part of [what we do] and what we're purchasing as consumers, but overall I wouldn't say we're trying to save the world or anything."
The first CD came from mysterious American entity Submersion, an album of dub techno so expansive it's almost impossible to pick out the rhythms. It easily sold out its limited run of 100, and spurred McCue to keep on producing physical products. Since then, the lovingly-assembled brown recycled paper CD sleeves and glued-on BC photography have become Silent Season's signature.
McCue quickly moved on to what seems like the logical next step when you run a techno label: slabs of black wax. "The vinyl was something that I always wanted to do," McCue admits, unsurprisingly. "I was a vinyl collector for a long time but it was something just felt so out of reach, and I never really understood the process. As Silent Season has grown I've taken more appreciation for the end result of the sound quality and mastering."
Nonetheless, Silent Season's vinyl releases have easily been among its most exciting work yet, expanding their reach to artists like Japan's Iori and German recluse STL, whose massive "Beats of Spirit" might be the label's high point thus far. In fact, 2012 has seen McCue release inspiring work on all mediums, with an incredibly detailed ambient album from ASC, the occult-ish metal clank of Djorvin Clain, another ASC album under his Mindspan techno alias and, most notably, Edanticonf's Forest Echo. In both name and sound it's hard to find a record that better encapsulates McCue's baby. Forest Echo's beats billow out from all directions, blanketing the stereo field with the humming buzz of nature, and glisten like sun reflecting off of dewy leaves.
Busy as ever, Silent Season will soon release a Mindspan release from San Diego's jack-of-all-trades ASC, his first under the alias since 2008. The Second Cycle further pushes the label's boundaries, at once more precise and determined than the label's pillowy ethos, but in typical ASC fashion set in a soundscape wider than most people can hope to achieve. That'll be followed by a CD from one of the label's earliest artists, Vancouver's Segue, a massive 2-CD project with contributions from CV313, Loscil and STL.
He's not making any money off of it, but the satisfaction McCue gets from running the label is payment enough, as clichéd as that might sound. McCue simply seems to enjoy the process. "Receiving demos, listening to them, having the tracks mastered and then organising all the labels and stickers and getting the CDs. Bringing it all together and drinking a bottle of wine and assembling all the CDs. [It's] definitely an undertaking in making them and shipping them out.... Every release feels special, and feels like a milestone."
Download: RA Label of the Month 1209 Mix: Silent Season
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Filesize: 151.3 MB
01. Djorvin Clain - Intro [SSCD12]
02. Djorvin Clain - Dark Storm [SSCD12]
03. Mindspan - Dying Embers
04. Inanitas - DeepHZ
05. Purl - Sargyll
06. Axs - Edge of the Chasm
07. Purl - Sus
08. Axs - Compass
09. Sonitus Eco - Ascention to Nowhere
10. Michael Mantra - D/A (A.Ps Nocturnal Radiance Mix)
11. Skyscaper - Noctilucent Clouds (Mindspan Mix)
12. Edanticonf - Planet - (Abdulla Rashims Inca Edit)