4AD Records is an independent record label from the UK, started up in 1979 and still active today as part of the Beggars Groupnote
The label was started by two former Beggars Banquet employees, Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, initially named Axis Records. After it was discovered that an Axis label already existed, it was renamed to 4AD, based on a promotional flyer where "1980 FORWARD" was gradually abbreviated to "4AD". Kent sold his share of the company to Watts-Russell in 1981, leaving him sole owner and president.
4AD first became famous in The Eighties
as the home of critically acclaimed Dream Pop
bands such as Cocteau Twins
, Dead Can Dance
and Watts-Russell's own collaborative project This Mortal Coil
. These bands helped codify
the genre's main characteristics, such as a combination between Ambient
production and accessible melodies, complex arrangements, copious Echoing Acoustics
, and a distinctive visual identity, courtesy of the label's in-house graphic designer Vaughan Oliver. The identification is so widespread that "4AD" is frequently used as a shorthand for "the classic dream pop sound".
However, this wasn't all 4AD had to offer, as was highlighted by its famous 1987 sampler compilation Lonely Is An Eyesore
. The label soon expanded into American Alternative Rock
, signing The Pixies
, The Breeders
and Throwing Muses
, among others, and establishing a Los Angeles
office in The Nineties
, from where a lot of the Slowcore
bands that drove the label that decade operated.
Despite a minor hit with Modern English's "I Melt With You" in 1983 and a huge success with M/A/R/R/S' sampletastic
"Pump Up the Volume" in 1987, 4AD were always more of a Cult Classic
UK-focused label, which led them to signing a distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records
in 1992. This is considered a sign of the end of "classic 4AD", as many of its flagship bands were leaving or disbanding, and Watts-Russell himself left the label in 1999, but it remained active. Its importance was recognised by the Beggars Group in 2008 through a reorganisation that merged many of its subsidiary labels into 4AD (including Beggars' Banquet itself).
"Classic" 4AD artists include:
Current 4AD bands include: