Influential British label 4AD is currently celebrating its 30th year in the business, which is a remarkable feat considering the perilous natiure of the industry these days. The enigmatic Ivo Watts-Russell and his partner Peter Kent founded the label in 1980, initially giving an outlet to idiosyncratic talents like Bauhaus, the Birthday Party, the Cocteau Twins, Pixies, and Throwing Muses.
Watts-Russell’s own band, This Mortal Coil, drew on many of the talents signed to his label, producing some of the most affecting music he ever foisted onto the world, including a memorable cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” (above). 4AD subsequently outgrew its arty origins with the commercial success of the Pixies, but always stuck close to its original ethos, with sleeve designer Vaughan Oliver giving the label a strong identity in the same way Peter Saville did for Factory.
The label still has a remarkably strong roster and continues to pluck some of the best North American talents that have emerged over the past couple of years—both Deerhunter and TV on the Radio are signed to 4AD in the U.K. Included here are 10 tracks Watts-Russell has been partly responsible for putting out into the world over the past three decades, and its testament to his ever expanding vision for the label that this list will quickly be superseded by whatever he has lined up next.