Throughout the week Andrew Collins will be providing his guide to the world of 4AD and the milestone recordings from the label's history.
In 1979 a brand new record label was launched. Called Axis records, it was set up by Ivo Watts Russell and Peter Kent and released four singles in 1980 before changing its name to 4AD. The label soon finds itself releasing the very first single by Northampton Goth types Bauhaus. Dark Entries, a Bowie influenced racket, does not too bad at all actually, well enough in fact for Beggars Banquet boss Martin Mills to loan the new label £1000 to relaunch as 4AD.
Early signings to the label fulfilled the dark atmospheric sound it became famous for. Bands including Rema Rema, In Camera and the aforementioned Bauhaus get the label off to a grand start before Bela Legusi's Dead storms to the top of the Indie Charts. Australia 's Birthday Party soon jump aboard and the early 80s indie scene swiftly finds itself dominated by the dark skeletal sound of 4AD.
The signing of The Cocteau Twins in 1982 and the following releases by the like of Dead Can Dance and 4AD supergroup This Mortal Coil only add to the label's identity - namely weird haircuts and heavily treated ethereal guitars all over the shop that go on for what seems like forever ... as far in fact as the late 80s.
By 1985 the 4AD label had established itself as one of the leading independent record companies on the planet. With the likes of the Cocteaus , Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil the label had become massively influential. The Cocteau Twins were a permanent fixture at the top of the indie charts and all was well.
In 1987, Throwing Muses, a four piece band from Boston in the USA were signed to the 4AD, beginning one of the most vital phases in the label's history. Moving outside of the moody and ethereal sound that had become synonymous with the label, the likes of Throwing Muses and the Pixies took 4AD into a whole new direction - college rock. 1988's Surfer Rosa found 4AD in the position of having on it's roster the biggest alternative rock band of the time. Oddly enough, soon after jacking in college, The Pixies sent a demo to 4AD head honcho Ivo Watts Russell which was shockingly nearly rejected. By the close of the decade though, Frank Black and his chums had taken the label to a whole new level.
The greatest fact about this period in 4AD's history though - Pump Up The Volume by MARRS was released on 4AD. Astonishing ...
With the success of the Throwing Muses and the Pixies, the early 90s was a time to rejoice for 4AD. Lush had been signed directly after a show they had performed at the Camden Falcon in London, and the heavy guitar onslaught of the new 4AD sound continued.
The label had shaken off the ethereal tag that once weighed around it's neck and was purposely looking for the hottest new heavy guitar bands around. The search for a new Pixies became urgent following the release of the band's fourth and final LP Trompe Le Monde in 1991, as the record became the band's last. Internal tensions and a massive hatred of constant touring led to the band breaking up in the very same year and two years later, Frank Black would reappear with his debut solo record as would Kim Deal as part of The Breeders with one of the greatest singles of the 90s, Cannonball.
Other notable new artists emerging from the 4AD stables between 1990 and 94 included Heidi Berry, San Francisco's Red House Painters and Belly, who had grown around former Throwing Muse Tanya Donnelly. The band's single Feed The Tree became an enormous hit in both the US and the UK, and the album Star became one of the label's biggest sellers ever.
The period between 1990 and 1994 found 4AD at the very heart of the alternative music scene both commercially and critically, a place it would struggle to maintain over the following years ...
The late 90s found 4AD becoming a true indie once more with the signing of acts such as Air Miami and Kendra Smith. It also found head honcho Ivo Watts Russell taking the label into brand new territory with the signing of country act Tarnation and also bringing on board it's very first dance band - Iceland 's Gus Gus. Gus Gus were no ordinary dance band though - made up of nine members, the band was more a multi media experience than anything and only added to the extraordinary roster of quirky groups then coming out of Iceland.
Former Pixie Kim Deal along with her sister Kelly formed The Amps in 1995, a group she never meant to be taken seriously - putting it together just for fun. The band released an LP and toured for a while, filling the gap for indie kids of the day who were pining for any sort of Pixies or Breeders related music.
By 1999, 4AD was in a state of flux. Label founder Ivo Watts Russell decided to sell the label to Beggars Banquet who promised they would take great good care of it's legacy. Ivo up sticks and moved to the desert plains of the US . 4AD was starting again.....
The beginning of a new decade and 4AD had a problem where to go now. Following the change of ownership in 1999, new owners Beggars Banquet had to re-evaluate the direction of the label.
Former Throwing Muse Kristin Hersh had by now established herself as a major solo artist. By now one of the label's longest serving and best loved artists, she continued to release fantastically mature albums full of strong tunes and beauty. Indeed, in 2003 Hersh reformed the Throwing Muses to great acclaim with the release of their self titled album - the band's first in seven years.
In 2002 The Breeders also reformed, and came back with Title TK - the band's third LP. Critical acclaim greeted the band on it's return - even if the album didn't do half as well as the massive selling Last Splash of the previous decade.
New bands signed by the all new 4AD during recent years include such greats as the Mountain Goats, TV On The Radio and Blonde Redhead. Rumours abound that the legendary Scott Walker will also be making an appearance on the label soon. Watch this space....