For a music brand that is all about innovative sounds, British record label 4AD's 30th anniversary is one of the quietest celebrations the industry has known. But this has not stopped loyal fans of the indie bands 4AD has championed recognising that its survival is an unlikely cultural triumph.
"What I loved was their brilliant sense of art and they are still here because of the combination of judicious husbandry of the business and a very canny A&R operation," said Mike Smith, managing director of Columbia Records. Next month sees the release of a new 4AD album, Halcyon Digest, by American band Deerhunter, yet the only sign of such a feat of endurance for a small company working in the most ruthless of creative industries will be the little "3X" that appears at the end of all 4AD album catalogue numbers this year. Minimalism has always been 4AD's style.
Founded as the last sparks of punk dwindled, the label was home to revered indie bands such as the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and the Pixies and it quickly became a beacon for adventurous musicians. 4AD was also hailed for its strong visual sense, with album covers regarded as design classics. "You could always spot a 4AD sleeve and there was a real quality not just to the music but to the artefact itself," recalled Smith.
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Pictured Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, one of the 4AD label's leading bands.