Founded in 1980 by Ivo Watts-Russell, 4AD remains one of the world’s most revered independent record labels. Explore some of the highlights of their pioneering back catalogue, from the ethereal beauty of Cocteau Twins and epic melancholia of The National to the brute force of Pixies and genre-hopping genius of Grimes.
Back in 2012, Claire Boucher’s disdain for perceived genre boundaries was genuinely revolutionary, and her penchant for blending seemingly-disparate styles made Visions one of the most influential records of the year. The fact that the Canadian producer’s eclectic approach is now common practice can’t help but remove some of the shock value from this follow-up, but only in the sense that we’re now prepared to expect the unexpected. Not only is Art Angels a more cohesive and consistently-melodic listen than Visions, it reaffirms Boucher’s status as a totally unique creative force. Seriously, who else but Grimes would even think to pair Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes with Dick Dale guitars (‘Scream’), K-Pop with country music (‘California’) or EDM with dream-pop (‘Realiti’), let alone pull it off with aplomb?
Singling out favourites from 4AD’s brilliant roster is something of a thankless task, but Deerhunter’s back catalogue speaks for itself. Formed by Bradford Cox in Athens, Georgia, back in 2001, the band joined 4AD in 2008, for the release of their third album, Microcastle. Four full-lengths on, Cox, Lockett Pundt and co are rightly regarded as one of the greatest art-rock outfits of this century, famed for both their innate melodic nous and their versatility. Having covered lush, indie-pop with Halcyon Digest and claustrophobic garage-rock via Monomania, the five-piece can currently be heard combining funk, Krautrock and psych-pop on their excellent seventh LP, Fading Frontier.
There are very few musicians producing work as genuinely groundbreaking as Holly Herndon’s. Currently studying for a doctorate in experimental music, the Tennessee-born, California-based electronic producer delights in blurring the boundary between science and art. On her recent debut for 4AD, this included adventures in ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) i.e. the deployment of specific sounds to trigger a pleasurable, tingling sensation in the listener. Whether you buy into the neurological phenomenon or not, Platform remains an absorbing listen, finding Herndon engaging both the head and the heart with her beautiful but complex, vocal-based compositions.
Daughter don’t so much write songs as conjure up a complete world for listeners to get lost in. On their rapturously-received 2013 debut, the London-based trio switched between skeletal indie-folk and atmospheric dream-pop, with consistently heartbreaking results. Now the band are back with a haunting first taster from the follow-up, Not To Disappear. Sonically, ‘Doing The Right Thing’ is very much rooted in the melancholic melodic palette of If You Leave-era material, but there’s a new-found directness to Elena Tonra’s lyrics, which deal with the “delicate subject of dementia and its debilitating, all-pervading effect on family.” We’re currently waiting with bated breath to hear the rest of the record.
- We’re all of us a slave to something; something’s holding us back, something’s keeping us apart.
- Songs are the only place where ugly feelings and embarrassing experiences are welcome.
- I thought that if I took away my safety net, I might be scared for a while but surely I would learn more.