It seems odd that a book should be published about a record label, and not the music that it released. However, in the case of 4AD it makes perfect sense (to me).
4AD became more than a label, a means to get music released, it became an aesthetic. A carefully curated group of bands, where by just having a catalog number was enough to tell you that it was something that you should hear. Released on 4AD? It’s probably good. If it’s not great when you first hear it, it’ll probably grow on you if you stick with it. That was my mantra as a teenager. From Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, Wolfgang Press, to Dif Juz, The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, and Clan of Xymox, it was all good. And it was all on 4AD. Yes, it was ruined for me with the Pixies, but in my musically formative years it was everything i needed. As they moved forward, i hung on becoming increasingly obsessive about uncovering the secrets of the back catalog.
What i hadn’t known was that the progression in the releases, was a roller coaster ride through one man’s fight with depression. If the Pixies and Throwing Muses were the attempts to hang on and run a label, giving bands indie success, releases like Hope Blister, The Red House Painters, Ultra Vivid Scene, were charting the depths of the label’s guiding light, Ivo Watts-Russell’s despair. It’s odd to think that he kept this mostly to himself, all the while broadcasting it, as a plea for help, unheard for years.
A Beautiful book. But, maybe only for those touched by the magic of probably the greatest label to chart the death of the music business.