4AD 1992

Listen to 4AD 1992 on Spotify.

1992 was another year of change for 4AD. Ivo Watts-Russell wanted to be able to pick more freely among things to release without getting in a serious relationship with bands, so he started the Guernica imprint which released three things at a rapid pace at the end of the year (and couple more the next year) before petering out. While it might be nice for the label not to commit to an artist, the artists may feel a bit… slighted? Because the audience is going “so these are the bands not good enough to be on 4AD?”

Which is a shame, because they’re better than some of the albums released on 4AD “proper” this year.

4AD released a buttload of things in 1992, and few of them have become well-loved classics. Down Colourful Hill by Red House Painters was a revelation and launched Mark Kozelek’s long-running career (still going now); Lush released Spooky, probably their best album (and it’s really good, but it was a let-down after the initial series of EPs, because Robin Guthrie’s production is somewhat sterile and claustrophobic); The Breeders did their first post-Pod EP that points to future stardom; and Belly release their first two EPs.

And I think the Gepetto EP made it clear to everybody that they’d soon have a hit on their hands: It (and Throwing Muses’ Firepile) were the first singles that would be “formatted”; i.e., released in as many formats as the UK indie chart rules would allow. From now on we get a bunch of remixes and more B-sides than anybody really wanted for every single single 4AD releases.

4AD is now becoming a commercial juggernaut with huge name recognition, particularly with the lucrative US college market, and other people than Ivo Watts-Russell would also have a say in what groups were signed. A US office is also opened around this time. *insert spooky music here*

(The first Belly EP, Slow Dust, isn’t available on Spotify, but all the songs show up in different versions on subsequent releases. Perhaps Tanya Donnelly didn’t want those early versions out there? Or did 4AD just forget to upload it? And none of the songs from the limited edition 7″ singles included with the Guernica albums are on Spotify, either.)


Lush — For Love

For Love, Starlust, Outdoor Miner, Astronaut

Lush — Spooky

Stray, Nothing Natural (remix), Tiny Smiles, Covert, Ocean, For Love, Superblast!, Untogether, Fantasy, Take, Laura, Monochrome

The Breeders — Safari

Do You Love Me Now?, Don’t Call Home, Safari, So Sad About Us

Pale Saints — In Ribbons

Throwing Back the Apple, Ordeal, Thread of Light, Shell, There is No Day, Hunted, Hair Shoes (remix), Babymaker (remix), Liquid, Neverending Night, Featherframe, A Thousand Stars Burst Open

Pale Saints — untitled

A Thousand Stars Burst Open (brass)*, A Revelation (rerecorded)*

The Wolfgang Press — A Girl Like You

A Girl Like You (7″ mix), Angel, A Girl Like You (1000 Times), A Girl Like You (Born To Be Kissed)

Michael Brook — Cobalt Blue

Shona Bridge, Breakdown, Red Shift, Skip Wave, Slipstream, Andean, Slow Breakdown, Ultramarine, Urbana, Lakbossa, Ten, Hawaii

Pale Saints — Throwing Back The Apple

Throwing Back The Apple, Blue Flower, Half-Life Remembered (remix), Reflections From A Watery World

Belly — Slow Dust

Dusted*, Slow Dog*, Dancing Gold*, Low Red Moon*, Dusted (remix)*

 cdLilliput 1 & 2
Various — Lilliput

Dark Entries, Controversial Subject, Nick the Stripper, I Melt With You, Song To The Siren, Incubus Succubus II, The Spangle Maker, Stranger, Baby I Love You So, Hate My Way, No Motion, Pump Up The Volume, Mercy Seat, The Host Of Seraphim, Monkey Gone To Heaven, De-Luxe, Throwing Back The Apple, Featherframe, A Girl Like You (7″ mix), Birmingham, Breakdown, Urbana, Chlorine Dream, Signed D. C., Gloria, Are We Still Married?, Tastes Like Honey, Follow Me Down, A Thousand Stars Burst Open (brass)

Swallow — Blow

Lovesleep, Tastes Like Honey, Sugar Your Mind, Mensurral, Peekaboo, Lacuna, Oceans and Blue Skies, Follow Me Down, Halo, Cherry Stars Collide, Head In a Cave

 TAD 2011 CD
Michael Brook — Live at The Aquarium

Shona Bridge (live), After Image / Urbana (live), Andean (live), Ultramarine (live), Lakbossa (live), Cascade (live), Red Shift (live)

Throwing Muses — Firepile

Firepile, Manic Depression, Snailhead (remix), City of the Dead

 BAD D2012
Throwing Muses — Firepile

Firepile (ep2), Jak, Ride into the Sun, Handsome Woman

Throwing Muses — Red Heaven

Furious, Firepile, Dio, Dirty Water, Stroll, Pearl, Summer St, Vic, Backroad, The Visit, Dovey, Rosetta Stone, Carnival Wig

Kristin Hersh — Live at Maxwell’s, Hoboken

Juno (live), Marriage Tree (live), Pearl (live), Stand Up / Dovey / Mexican Women (live), Run Letter (live), Soap & Water (live), Rabbits Dying (live), Cry Baby Cry (live), Counting Backwards / Handsome Woman (live), Take (live), Soul Soldier (live), Bea (live), Delicate Cutters (live)

Unrest — Imperial f. f. r. r.

Volume Reference Tone, Suki, Imperial, I Do Beleive You Are Blushing, Champion Nines, Sugarshack, Isabel, Cherry Cream On, Firecracker, June, Loyola, Yes She Is My Skinhead Girl, Hydrofoil no. 1, Full Frequency (remix), Wednesday & Proud

Unrest — untitled

Yes She Is My Skinhead Girl (rerecorded)*, Hydrofoil no. 3 (rerecorded)*, Range Recording (remix)*

Red House Painters — Down Colorful Hill

24, Medicine Bottle, Down Colorful Hill, Japanese to English, Lord Kill the Pain, Michael

 TAD 2015 CD
Swallow — Blowback

Oceans and Blue Skies (remix), Head in a Cave (remix), Tastes Like Honey (remix), Peekaboo (remix), Sugar Your Mind (remix), Follow Me Down (remix), Mensurral (remix), Cherry Stars Collide (remix)

The Birthday Party — Hits

The Friend Catcher, Happy Birthday, Mr. Clarinet, Nick the Stripper, Zoo Music Girl, King Ink, Release the Bats, Blast Off, She’s Hit, 6″ Gold Blade, Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow), Dead Joe, Junkyard, Big-Jesus-Trash-Can, Wild World, Sonny’s Burning, Deep in the Woods, Swampland, Jennifer’s Veil, Mutiny in Heaven

Ultra Vivid Scene — Rev

Candida, Cut-throat, Mirror to Mirror, The Portion of Delight, Thief’s Love Song, How Sweet, Medicating Angels, Blood and Thunder, This is the Way

Underground Lovers — Leaves Me Blind

Eastside Stories, Promenade, I was right, Holiday, Got of on it, Daze, Waves, Your eyes, Ladies choice, Get to know, Whisper me nothing

Underground Lovers — untitled

Leaves Me Blind (demo version)*, Mumble Head (demo version)*

Belly — Gepetto

Gepetto, Sexy S, Hot Burrito #1, Sweet Ride

 BAD C2018
Belly — Gepetto

Gepetto (remix), It’s Not Unusual, Star (demo), Dusted (demo)

 TAD 2019 CD
Throwing Muses — The Curse

Manic Depression (live), Counting Backwards (live), Fish (live), Hate My Way (live), Furious (live), Devil’s Roof (live), Snailhead (live), Firepile (live), Finished (live), Take (live), Say Goodbye (live), Mania (live), Two Step (live), Delicate Cutters (live), Cottonmouth (live), Pearl (live), Vic (live), Bea (live)

Bettie Serveert — Palomine

Leg, Palomine, Kid’s Allright, Tom Boy, Under The Surface, Balentine, This Thing Nowhere, Healthy Sick, Sundazed To The Core, Palomine (small)

Bettie Serveert — untitled

Brain-Tag*, Get The Bird*, Smile*

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

4AD 1991

Listen to 4AD 1991 on Spotify.

The most striking thing about 1991 is that a lot of the sleeves aren’t very good. Vaughan Oliver/Chris Bigg might have been going through a period of burn-out, and there’s some external designers used, too. Counting Backwards, Time, the Spirea X releases, Flesh Balloon are all pretty bad. And Mama Told Me Not To Come is just disgusting.

Musically, things are moving in a distinctly more stream-lined and commercial direction. With Trompe le Monde, Pixies are finally nothing more than just another boring rock band; all the weirdness and fun has been discarded. Throwing Muses loses Leslie Langston’s glorious bass lines. The Wolfgang Press decide to stop being such contrarians and go dancing instead. (Which I quite like.) And Spirea X… what the fuck is that even? The first band on 4AD since 1982 that I just don’t like even a tiny bit.

But it’s not all bad. His Name Is Alive return with a magnificent second album, and Heidi Berry’s Love is glorious and fresh. And, of course, This Mortal Coil release their third and final album, and it’s quite good. Not as good a Filigree & Shadow, but then very few things are.

There’s a whopping 17 “official” things released this year (and more than a few promo releases), but only a handful are vital, which makes this the worst year in 4AD history.


(I haven’t included the promo stuff in the Spotify playlist because they’re not very interesting, and, well, they’re not on Spotify.)


Throwing Muses — Counting Backwards

Counting Backwards, Same Sun, Amazing Grace, Cottonmouth

Throwing Muses — The Real Ramona

Counting Backwards, Him Dancing, Red Shoes, Graffiti, Golden Thing, Ellen West, Dylan, Hook In Her Head, Not Too Soon, Honeychain, Say Goodbye, Two Step

The Wolfgang Press — Time

Time (single), Time Less, Dark Time

Spirea X — Chlorine Dream

Chlorine Dream, Spirea Rising, Risk

This Mortal Coil — Blood

The Lacemaker, Mr. Somewhere, Andialu, With Tomorrow, Loose Joints, You And Your Sister, Nature’s Way, I Come And Stand At Every Door, Bitter (), Baby Ray Baby, Several Times (Several Times I), The Lacemaker II, Late Night, Ruddy And Wretched, Help Me Lift You Up, Carolyn’s Song, D. D. And E., ‘Til I Gain Control Again, Dreams Are Like Water, I Am The Cosmos, (Nothing But) Blood

Spirea X — Speed Reaction

Speed Reaction, What Kind Of Love, Jet Pilot, Re: Action

The Wolfgang Press — Mama Told Me Not To Come

Mama Told Me Not To Come, Mama Told Me Not To Come (inside out mix), Summer Time

Pixies — Planet Of Sound

Planet Of Sound, Theme From Narc, Build High, Evil Hearted You

Pale Saints — Flesh Balloon

Hunted, Porpoise, Kinky Love, Hair Shoes (demo version)

 CAD C1010
Dead Can Dance — A Passage In Time

Saltarello, Song Of Sophia, Ulysses, Cantara, The Garden Of Zephirus, Enigma Of The Absolute, Wilderness, The Host Of Seraphim, Anywhere Out Of The World, The Writing Of My Father’s Hand, Severance, The Song Of The Sybil, Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book, In The Kingdom Of The Blind The One-Eyed Are Kings, Bird, Spirit

The Wolfgang Press — Queer

Birmingham, Mama Told Me Not To Come, Heaven’s Gate, Riders On The Heart, Questions Of Time, Louis XIV, Fakes & Liars, Honey Tree, Birdie Song, Dreams & Light, Sucker, Mother Valentine

Heidi Berry — Love

Washington Square, Up In The Air, Gloria, Great Big Silver Key, Wake, Cradle, Hand Over Head, Silver Buttons, Lonely Heart, Bright As Day, Lily

His Name Is Alive — Home Is In Your Head

Are You Coming Down This Weekend?, Her Eyes Were Huge Things, The Charmer, Hope Called In Sick, My Feathers Needed Cleaning, The Well, There’s Something Between Us And He’s Changing My Words, The Phoenix, A Pool Of Ice, Are We Still Married?, Put Your Finger In Your Eye, Home Is In Your Head, Why People Disappear, Her Eyes Are Huge, Save the Birds, Chances Are We Are Mad, Mescalina, Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking, Very Bad A Bitter Hand, Beautiful And Pointless, Tempe, Spirit And Body, Love’s A Fish Eye, Dreams Are Of The Body, The Other Body

Pixies — Trompe Le Monde

Trompe Le Monde, Planet Of Sound, Alec Eiffel, The Sad Punk, Head On, U-Mass, Palace Of The Brine, Letter To Memphis, Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons, Space (I Believe In), Subbacultcha, Distance Equals Rate Times Time, Lovely Day, Motorway To Roswell, The Navajo Know

Throwing Muses — Not Too Soon

Not Too Soon, Cry Baby Cry, Him Dancing (remix), Dizzy (remix)

Lush — Black Spring

Nothing Natural, God’s Gift, Fallin’ In Love, Monochrome

Spirea X — Fireblade Skies

Smile, Nothing Happened Yesterday, Rollercoaster (spirea), Chlorine Dream (remix), Fire And Light, Spirea 9, Speed Reaction, Confusion In My Soul, Signed D. C., Sisters And Brothers, Sunset Dawn

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

4AD 1990

Listen to 4AD 1990 on Spotify.

4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell has later said that he was going to shut down 4AD after ten years, but he didn’t because he felt an obligation to the bands. So instead 1990 turned into one of the busiest years ever, with 17 releases, and some of the biggest commercial successes in 4AD’s history.

Dead Can Dance released Aion, a release that I think converted anybody sceptical about them into fans. Pixies released Bossanova, which was very popular and the first release on 4AD I didn’t like since 1984. But Kim Deal from Pixies joined up with Tanya Donnelly from Throwing Muses and Josephine Wiggs and went into the studio with “producer” Steve Albini and came up with the Pod album, which I think is better than everything Pixies did ever combined.

And we got the first album from His Name Is Alive, which did much to ensure people sceptical of the other newcomers that 4AD was still spiffy.

And then there’s Cocteau Twins. Heaven or Las Vegas was their most commercial release ever, and sold a buttload of copies, and was also well-liked by old fans. Imagine that. But: During interviews Robin Guthrie had been saying increasingly dismissive things about Ivo, and he finally got fed up and released them from their contract out of the blue.

As was part of the pattern, after leaving 4AD they didn’t really do anything much worthwhile. People are still coming clean about whether they tolerated Four-Calendar Cafe or not.

Watts-Russell would start withdrawing from day-to-day running of the label (and the artists) after this. He had been very hands-on, from doing the A&R thing to signing bands to visiting them in the studio to overseeing the manufacturing, and that ended around this time. Perceived cohesion would start to dissolve over the next few years as other people at 4AD would start bringing in bands. The “4AD fan” thing would start to become a thing of the past. Which is perhaps a good thing? Or kinda melancholic. Take your pick.


Pale Saints — The Comforts Of Madness

Way The World Is, You Tear The World In Two, Sea Of Sound, True Coming Dream, Little Hammer, Insubstantial, A Deep Sleep For Steven, Language Of Flowers, Fell From The Sun, Sight Of You (remix), Time Thief

Lush — Mad Love

De-Luxe, Leaves Me Cold, Downer, Thoughtforms (remix)

Ultra Vivid Scene — Staring At The Sun

Staring At The Sun, Three Stars (*** version), Crash (remix), Something Better

Ultra Vivid Scene — Joy 1967-1990

It Happens Every Time, Staring At The Sun, Three Stars (remix), Special One, Grey Turns White, Poison, Guilty Pleasure, Extra Ordinary, Beauty #2, The Kindest Cut, Praise The Low, Lightning

The Breeders — Pod

Glorious, Doe, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Oh!, Hellbound, When I Was A Painter, Fortunately Gone, Iris, Opened, Only In 3’s, Lime House, Metal Man

Dead Can Dance — Aion

The Arrival And The Reunion, Saltarello, Mephisto, The Song Of The Sybil, Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book, As The Bell Rings The Maypole Spins, The End Of Words, Black Sun, Wilderness, The Promised Womb, The Garden Of Zephirus, Radharc

His Name Is Alive — Livonia

As We Could Ever, e-nicolle, If July, Some and I, fossil, E-Nicolle, Caroline’s Supposed Demon, Fossil, reincarnation, You And I Have Seizures, How Ghosts Affect Relationships, Darkest Dreams

Pixies — Velouria

Velouria, I’ve Been Waiting For You, Make Believe, The Thing (The Happening)

Pixies — Bossanova

Cecilia Ann, Rock Music, Velouria, Allison, Is She Weird, Ana, All Over The World, Dig For Fire, Down To The Well (remix), The Happening, Blown Away, Hang Wire, Stormy Weather, Havalina

Cocteau Twins — Iceblink Luck

Iceblink Luck, Mizake The Mizan, Watchlar

Cocteau Twins — Heaven Or Las Vegas

Cherry-Coloured Funk, Pitch The Baby, Iceblink Luck, Fifty-Fifty Clown, Heaven Or Las Vegas, I Wear Your Ring, Fotzepolitic, Wolf In The Breast, Road River And Rail, Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires

Lush — Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And Light, Breeze, Sunbathing

Pixies — Dig For Fire

Dig For Fire (single), Winterlong, Velvety Instrumental Version, Santo

Pale Saints — Half-Life

Half-Life Remembered, Babymaker, Two Sick Sisters, A Revelation, The Colour Of The Sky

Ultra Vivid Scene — Special One

Special One, Lightning (72 b.p.m / 4 a.m.), Kind Of A Drag, A Smile And A Death Wish

Lush — Gala

Baby Talk, Thoughtforms, Scarlet, Bitter, Second Sight, Etheriel, De-Luxe, Leaves Me Cold, Downer, Thoughtforms (remix), Sweetness And Light, Breeze, Sunbathing, Hey Hey Helen, Scarlet (version two)

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

4AD 1989

Listen to 4AD 1989 on Spotify.

The playlist is, once again, not complete because Spotify doesn’t have everything. The missing songs are marked with an asterisk*.

1989 is a year of change. None of the old 4AD heavy hitters (Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, erm Clan of Xymox) release anything this year, but instead Pixies release their perhaps most popular album, Doolittle. (Well, OK, Bossanova might be even more popular, but those people are just wrong.) Doolittle straightens out most of the weirdnesses of Pixies’ output and packages into a more easily digested format. And digested it was.

Kristin Hersh was going through pretty much the same process with Throwing Muses, but not without complaint. She’d been told by the US label they were on that she’d better come up with a hit now, and she wrote Dizzy to appease them, as well as keeping things more straight throughout the album. To her horror, Dizzy went on to become a hit.

The good thing is that it’s the only bad song on the album. Tracks like Devil’s Roof are just so irresistible, especially with Leslie Langston’s ever-evolving bass lines playing against the melodies. I didn’t appreciate this at the time, because I was bummed that this wasn’t House Tornado II, but I’ve grown to appreciate the album over the years.

And then! At the end of the year! New people!

Lush and Pale Saints make their debuts, and they both fit into the “yes, people who like other bands on 4AD will like these bands” mould, but they’re something new. It’s time for shoegaze music, and one major part of it started here (and, sure, Ride and My Bloody Valentine etc).

All in all, 1989 must be the year 4AD released the least amount of music. There’s only two proper albums this year: Doolittle and Hunkpapa. The rest of the releases are singles, EPs and one mini album.

The Spotify playlist is just two and a half hours long, which is half the length of a normal 80s year… This would change radically in the 90s: 1993 is over 16 hours long.


Throwing Muses — Hunkpapa

Devil’s Roof, Bea, Dizzy, No Parachutes, Dragonhead, Say Goodbye, Fall Down, I’m Alive, Angel, Mania, The Burrow, Take

The Wolfgang Press — Kansas

Assasination K. / Kanserous, Kansas, Scratch*, Twister*

Throwing Muses — Dizzy

Dizzy, Santa Claus, Mania, Downtown*

Pixies — Monkey Gone To Heaven

Monkey Gone To Heaven, Manta Ray, Weird At My School, Dancing The Manta Ray

Pixies — Doolittle

Debaser, I Bleed, Tame, Wave Of Mutilation, Here Comes Your Man, Dead, Monkey Gone To Heaven, Mr. Grieves, Crackity Jones, La La Love You, There Goes My Gun, No. 13 Baby, Hey, Gouge Away

Ultra Vivid Scene — Mercy Seat

Mercy Seat, Codeine*, H Like In Heaven*, Mercy Seat*

The Wolfgang Press — Raintime

Raintime, Bottom Drawer, Slowtime

Ultra Vivid Scene — Something to Eat

Something to Eat*, H Like in Heaven*

Pixies — Here Comes Your Man

Here Comes Your Man, Into The White, Wave Of Mutilation, Bailey’s Walk

Pale Saints — Barging into The Presence Of God

Sight Of You, She Rides The Waves, Mother Might

Lush — Scar

Baby Talk, Thoughtforms, Scarlet, Bitter, Second Sight, Etheriel

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

4AD 1988

Listen to 4AD 1988 on Spotify.

And here my problems really start with the “let people listen to 4AD as if they were around at the time” approach starts fraying.

Over the next few years, 4AD would start getting in to the 12″ remix business, and it starts here with The Wolfgang Press’ King of Soul single. It has three different versions of that song… and, as I pretty much expected, none of those versions exist on Spotify. Only the album version does.

As we get into the 90s, expect more lacunae.

After the very exciting 1987, 1988 comes off as a breathing space. Basically all the bands keep on doing what they do, and what they do is very good indeed. Vaughan Oliver is still art-directing his hands off on these releases, with some very striking result (like the Ultra Vivid Scene cover which looks like nothing else, especially in the original vinyl version). It’s all very tasteful.

And then there’s the cover of Bird Wood Cage, which is an old toilet sat on a lawn, courtesy the funsters of The Wolfgang Press, who allegedly insisted on that design just to piss Oliver off.

Ultra Vivid Scene was the only new band of the year, and only ten things were released, which I think is the least ever in 4AD’s history. But two of the releases were huge sellers, I think: Cocteau Twins’ Blue Bell Knoll, which signalled that they were going in a more commercial, bright direction. And then there’s The Serpent’s Egg by Dead Can Dance that signalled that they definitely weren’t.

Perhaps 4AD was treading the water a bit, but it’s pretty good water to be treading. Still, some fresh young energy was needed to spice things up, and that’d come next year.

My favourite release of the year is House Tornado by Throwing Muses. It’s Peak Quirkiness: Every song is just downright weird. And fabulous. My go-to song to sing to myself when my brain is otherwise blank is still Juno, after all these years.

If they were pretty
It’d be OK to say
But that day only
When she wore dresses she felt born

*sings along in his head*

Oh, and, bragging time:

I got a CADX703 this week!!!! After lusting after it for 30 years!

This has nothing to do with Bernard Valentin posting a picture of his two copies, which didn’t make me jealous at all, not in the least. Nothing to do with that!

Now I’m going to remain giddily happy for the rest of my life!

Oooh, nice print:

Anyway, bragging time’s over; here’s 1988:


Bulgarian Voices — Volume 2: Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

Kaval Sviri, Stani Mi, Maytcho, Di-Li-Do, More Zajeni Se Ghiouro, Tche Da TiKupim Bela Seitsa, Ovdoviala Lissitchkata, Messetchinko Lio, Ei Mori Roujke, Dragana J Slavei, Atmadja Duma Strachilu, Dve Tourlaski Pesen, Trenke Todorke, Besrodna Nevesta, Jzpoved, Ghiore Dos, Spis Li, Milke Le

Throwing Muses — House Tornado

Colder, Mexican Women, The River, Juno, Marriage Tree, Run Letter, Saving Grace, Drive, Downtown, Giant, Walking In The Dark

Pixies — Surfer Rosa

Bone Machine, Break My Body, Something Against You, Broken Face, Gigantic, River Euphrates, Where Is My Mind?, Cactus, Tony’s Theme, Oh My Golly!, Vamos, I’m Amazed, Brick Is Red, Caribou

The Wolfgang Press — King Of Soul

King Of Soul*, King Of Soul*, King Of Soul*

Pixies — Gigantic

Gigantic, River Euphrates, Vamos, In Heaven (Lady In Radiator Song)

Ultra Vivid Scene — She Screamed

She Screamed, Walkin’ After Midnight, Not In Love (Hit By A Truck)

Cocteau Twins — Blue Bell Knoll

Blue Bell Knoll, Athol-Brose, Carolyn’s Fingers, For Phoebe Still A Baby, The Itchy Glowbo Blow, Cico Buff, Suckling The Mender, Spooning Good Singing Gum, A Kissed Out Red Floatboat, Ella Megalast Burls Forever

Dead Can Dance — The Serpent’s Egg

The Host Of Seraphim, Orbis de Ignis, Ulysses, The Writing Of My Father’s Hand, Song Of Sophia, In The Kingdom Of The Blind The One-Eyed Are Kings, Chant Of The Paladin, Echolalia, Mother Tongue, Severance

Ultra Vivid Scene — Ultra Vivid Scene

She Screamed, Crash, You Didn’t Say Please, Lynn-Marie #2, Nausea, Mercy Seat, A Dream Of Love, Lynn-Marie #1, This isn’t Real, The Whore Of God, Bloodline, A Kiss And A Slap, How Did It Feel, Hail Mary

The Wolfgang Press — Bird Wood Cage

King Of Soul, Raintime, Bottom Drawer, Kansas, Swing Like A Baby, See My Wife, The Holey Man, Hang On Me (For Papa), Shut That Door

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

4AD 1987

Listen to 4AD 1987 on Spotify.

This isn’t complete, unfortunately. The Fat Skier mini-album by Throwing Muses doesn’t exist on Spotify. Three of the tracks appear on various compilations, and I’ve included them on the playlist, but you’re missing some wonderful songs like And A She-Wolf After The War, Pools in Eyes and Soap and Water.

Hey, 4AD people! Get the rights for this thing and get it on Spotify already!

The songs from the Frazier Chorus EP Sloppy Hearts are included in the playlist, but they are the re-recorded versions from their debut album, and not the versions from the EP. The differences aren’t huge, though.

4AD didn’t release that many releases in 1987, but it was a momentous year, anyway. The three major releases:

Lonely is an Eyesore is a label sampler, but it’s the best one ever. All the bands contribute new songs, not featured anywhere else, and they contribute top shelf items. Almost any of these tracks would have been standouts on their respective bands’ albums, so you have to wonder how label head Ivo Watts-Russell managed to wrangle those tracks out of them. And it’s such a striking, excessive release (it was done in several formats, one of which was in a wooden box in an edition of 100) that it further cemented 4AD as being a “thing” more important than the individual artists (in many people’s eyes).

And while there are ten tracks on the album, two are from Dead Can Dance, and three of the tracks (by Clan of Xymox, Dif Juz and Colourbox) are from groups that would release barely nothing after this release. So in a way it’s an (unplanned?) epitaph of an era of 4AD instead of a celebration of it.

The second thing of particular import is the first album (well, mini-album) by Pixies. Not only was it a shock to the system: It’s such a wild, ferocious thing, but a whole genre was spawned based on somebody in Seattle getting a copy of it and the subsequent album. (I’m talking about grunge.)

And then there’s Pump Up The Volume by M|A|R|R|S, which is basically one of the guys from Colourbox trapped in a studio with the guys from A. R. Kane. Who didn’t do much except bitch, apparently, until Martyn Young made the song (recollections differ greatly), which was Ivo’s basic plan to prod Young into making something. It was a huge, huge worldwide hit and 4AD’s best-selling release. I remember visiting my sister in Portugal during the summer of 1987, and we were walking around the old part of Lisboa and hearing that song streaming out of somebody’s window and everything was perfect.

The commercial success of the song had all kinds of negative repercussions, though. A. R. Kane sued 4AD and or Colourbox because they wanted more money, and some of the people sampled on the song did likewise. Martyn Young basically dropped out and didn’t write a single track afterwards, and the process was a time and energy drain on 4AD and Watts-Russell.

Less distressing was Sleeps With The Fishes by Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook: It’s an album I never grow tired of listening to.


Throwing Muses — Chains Changed

Finished, Reel, Snail Head, Cry Baby Cry

The Wolfgang Press — Big Sex

The Wedding, The Great Leveller, That Heat, God’s Number

Various — Lonely Is An Eyesore

Crushed, The Protagonist, Cut The Tree, Frontier, Hot Doggie, Acid Bitter And Sad, Muscoviet Musquito, Fish, No Motion

A. R. Kane — Lollita

Lollita, Sado-Masochism Is A Must, Butterfly Collector

Dead Can Dance — Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun

Anywhere Out Of The World, Windfall, In The Wake Of Adversity, Xavier, Dawn Of The Iconoclast, Cantara, Summoning Of The Muse, Persephone (The Gathering Of Flowers)

Throwing Muses — The Fat Skier

Garoux Des Larmes, Pools In Eyes, A Feeling, Soap And Water, And A She-Wolf After The War, You Cage, Soul Soldier

M/A/R/R/S — Pump Up The Volume

Pump Up The Volume, Anitina

M/A/R/R/S — Pump Up The Volume (Remix)

Pump Up The Volume (Remix), Anitina (Remix)

Frazier Chorus — Sloppy Heart

Sloppy Heart, Typical, Storm

Pixies — Come On Pilgrim

Caribou, Vamos, Isla de Encanta, Ed Is Dead, The Holiday Song, Nimrod’s Son, I’ve Been Tired, Leviate Me

Pieter Nooten / Michael Brook — Sleeps With The Fishes

Several Times I, Searching, The Choice, After The Call, Finally II, Instrumental, Suddenly II, Suddenly I, Clouds, Finally I, Several Times II, Equal Ways, These Waves, Several Times III

Xymox — Blind Hearts

Blind Hearts, A Million Things, Scum

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

4AD 1986

Listen to 4AD 1986 on Spotify.

1985 was a good year for 4AD, but didn’t have many surprises. 1986 ramps things up considerably.

First of all, we have Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. I don’t think anybody saw that coming or were prepared for how beautiful these Bulgarian songs could be.

And Cocteau Twins decided finally release a new “proper” album… but this time without any drums, which made people go “hm” all over the world. And then they did a collaborative album with pianist Harold Budd, but instead of using a moniker like “Cocteau Twins feat. Some Twinkly Piano” and selling boatloads of records, they used the less commercial name “Budd / Fraser / Guthrie / Raymonde”. Such kidders.

Some people don’t think that Cocteau Twins’ Treasure is the best thing 4AD released, but instead think that Filigree & Shadow by This Mortal Coil is better. These people are right.

The first This Mortal Coil album was charming, but it was (especially on side two) just a collection of random songs. The new album is a masterpiece of sequencing. Every of the four sides has an ebb and flow and a logic to it, and in addition to that, it also has an all-over logic, climaxing in Drugs near the end of side four. It’s a brilliant artefact, filled with beautiful music.

And it added to the resentment between Cocteau Twins and Ivo because Simon Raymonde (co-)wrote many of the interstitial atmospheric songlets, but were paid off as if a session musician.

So all that well and good (well, brilliant), but the most important development in 1986 is, in my opinion, the first Throwing Muses album.

4AD label boss Ivo Watts-Russel had a policy of not signing bands that weren’t in his vicinity, so that meant bands in the UK (or in Holland). But he was so taken by Throwing Muses’ demo tape that he kept calling a teenage Kristin Hersh and telling her how much he loved it, but that he just couldn’t sign them. She must have been somewhat nonplussed.

And then he signed them, and opened up a new sub-chapter in 4AD’s history.

Not only were Throwing Muses fabulous, and would release a string of wonderful albums (still at it to this day), but Throwing Muses led to Pixies, and Belly, and The Breeders eventually. And that’s the US college market, basically, and opened up a new commercial reality for 4AD, for better or worse. Mostly worse, really, but with a lot of great music before it all collapsed.


Richenel — L’esclave Endormi

L’Esclave Endormi, L’Esclave Endormi

Cocteau Twins — Victorialand

Lazy Calm, Fluffy Tufts, Throughout The Dark Months of April And May, Whales Tails, Oomingmak, Little Spacey, Feet-like Fins, How To Bring A Blush To The Snow, The Thinner The Air

Bulgarian Voices — Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

Pilentze Pee, Svatba, Kalimankou Denkou, Strati na Engelaki Doumansche, Polegnala Pschenitza, Messetschinko Lio Greilivko, Brei Yvane, Erghen Diado, Sableyalo Planinata, Mir Stanke Le, Schopska Pesen, Polegnala e Todora

Colourbox — Baby I Love You So

Baby I Love You So, Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse, Shoot Out

Colourbox — The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme

The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme, Philip Glass, The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme

The Wolfgang Press — Standing Up Straight

Dig A Hole, My Life, Hammer The Halo, Bless My Brother, Fire-Fly, Ghost, Rotten Fodder, Forty Days Thirty Nights, I Am The Crime

Throwing Muses — Throwing Muses

Call Me, Green, Hate My Way, Vicky’s Box, Rabbits Dying, America (She Can’t Say No), Fear, Stand Up, Soul Soldier, Delicate Cutters

This Mortal Coil — Drugs

Drugs, Come Here My Love

This Mortal Coil — Filigree & Shadow

Velvet Belly, The Jeweller, Ivy And Neet, Meniscus, Tears, Tarantula, My Father, Come Here My Love, At First And Then, Strength Of Strings, Morning Glory, Inch-blue, I Want To Live, Mama K (1), Filigree & Shadow, Firebrother, Thais (1), I Must Have Been Blind, A Heart Of Glass, Alone, Mama K (2), The Horizon Bleeds And Sucks Its Thumb, Drugs, Red Rain, Thais (2)

Cocteau Twins — Love’s Easy Tears

Love’s Easy Tears, Those Eyes That Mouth, Sigh’s Smell Of Farewell

Budd / Fraser / Guthrie / Raymonde — The Moon And The Melodies

Sea Swallow Me, Memory Gongs, Why Do You Love Me?, Eyes Are Mosaics, She Will Destroy You, The Ghost Has No Home, Bloody And Blunt, Ooze Out And Away Onehow

Dif Juz — Out Of The Trees

Hu, Re, Mi, Cs, Gunet, Heset, Diselt, Soarn

Clan Of Xymox — Medusa

Theme I, Medusa, Michelle, Theme II, Louise, Lorrentine, Agonised By Love, Masquerade, After The Call, Back Door

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.