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22/11/2014 : MARTIN ASTON - Facing The Other Way, The Story Of 4-AD

MARTIN ASTON

Facing The Other Way, The Story Of 4-AD

Book
22/11/2014, Paul PLEDGER

It's hard to believe that until now, prior to this engaging and explorative tome's publication, no-one had felt suitably compelled to have written about one of the UK's most important independent record-labels. Perhaps budding biographers had resigned themselves to the fact that established music-writing behemoth Martin Aston was already writing this from the first time he set eyes (and ears) on the Cocteau Twins, the subject of his inaugural live review 30 years ago.

And when I say 'writing', I mean gathering information, quotes, friendships, relationships, emotional wrenches, elation and otherwise private insights into an organisation that, like Factory, keeled over at one point, almost the victim of its own (lack of) successes. Unlike Factory, 4AD is still in existence and thriving. In fact, the London imprint has survived near-bankruptcy, Warners and a few identity crises, as well as founder Ivo Watts-Russell's complete detachment from music (and subsequent depression) to once again become a revered and respected force in the 21st century (minus Ivo), even if a lot of its current roster pales against that of the '80s and first half of the '90s. Still a pretty enviable one, mind. At one point, the word 'ethereal' followed the Wandsworth label's reviews around like an unwanted pet, but it raised a loyal and ardent family of fans - me included.

But, as Aston's in-depth analysis explains throughout this compelling book, it could have been a lot different. Facing The Other Way details how 4AD began life as the largely ineffectual Axis Records, retained Bauhaus from those early days to arguably make an impression (good and bad) on the press and a growing audience, chanced its arm with a few spiky post-punk one-off releases (Rema Rema, The Past Seven Days, Sort Sol - all stunning), before settling into a purple-patch, a golden era of a decade's worth of rewarding artists and their art.

Oh yes, the art. In-house designers, you've gotta love 'em and v23, like Factory's Peter Saville, created many memorable sleeves to go with the often-imperative (but sometimes risible) contents. Aston describes how managers, designers, artists and staff operated, sometimes in unison as a family and other times as complete strangers. Or worse, enemies.

Billed as a definitive history - which isn't strictly true; the later years in the 21st century are dealt with very swiftly in the final forty pages or so and there's sadly no discography (although to be fair, the book IS a chronological account of just about every release) - Facing The Other Way still trounces most other biogs by being respectful, impartial, biased, constructive and straight-forward in tone, all at the same time. A triumph, by any other term.

As a bit of fun, I've chosen my favourite 4AD releases since the label's conception in 1980, up to the present day (Jan 2014) - you can hear some of the tracks in the Spotify playlist Vestal Swirls Out (underneath)

AD 7 - BAUHAUS - TERROR COUPLE KILLED COLONEL 7"

AD 8 - IN CAMERA - FINAL ACHIEVEMENT 7"

AD 15 - MODERN ENGLISH - GATHERING DUST 7"

BAD 9 - CUPOL - LIKE THIS FOR AGES 12"

BAD 5 - REMA REMA - WHEEL IN THE ROSES 12"

AD 101 - SORT SOL - MARBLE STATION 7"

AD 102 - PAST SEVEN DAYS - RAINDANCE 7"

AD 114 - BIRTHDAY PARTY - MR CLARINET

BAD 109 - DIF JUZ - HUREMICS 12"

BAD 116 - DIF JUZ - VIBRATING AIR 12"

CAD 117 - VARIOUS ARTISTS - NATURES MORTES LP

CAD 105 - MODERN ENGLISH - MESH AND LACE LP

CAD 113 - MATT JOHNSON - BURNING BLUE SOUL LP

AD 212 - MODERN ENGLISH - I MELT WITH YOU 7"

BAD 215 - COLOURBOX - BREAKDOWN 12"

BAD 213 - COCTEAU TWINS - LULLABIES 12"

CAD 206 - MODERN ENGLISH - AFTER THE SNOW LP

CAD 207 - BIRTHDAY PARTY - JUNKYARD LP

AD 310 - THIS MORTAL COIL - SONG TO THE SIREN 7"

BAD 305 - X-MAL DEUTSCHLAND - QUAL 12"

BAD 314 - COCTEAU TWINS - SUNBURST AND SNOWBLIND 12"

BAD 408 - DEAD CAN DANCE - GARDEN OF THE ARCANE DELIGHTS 12"

CAD 402 - MODERN ENGLISH - RICOCHET DAYS LP

CAD 411 - THIS MORTAL COIL - IT'LL END IN TEARS LP

BAD 510 - COCTEAU TWINS - TINY DYNAMINE 12"

BAD 403 - COLOURBOX - SAY YOU 7"

CAD 503 - CLAN OF XYMOX - CULT OF XYMOX LP

CAD 505 - DIF JUZ - EXTRACTIONS LP

CAD 508 - COLOURBOX - COLOURBOX dLP

BAD 501 - COCTEAU TWINS - AIKEA GUINEA 12"

BAD 506 - WOLFGANG PRESS - SWEATBOX 12"

CAD 603 - LE MYSTERE DES VOIX BULGARES - LE MYSTERE DES VOIX BULGARES LP

BAD 604 - COLOURBOX - BABY I LOVE YOU SO 12"

BAD 610 - COCTEAU TWINS - LOVE'S EASY TEARS 12"

CAD 602 - COCTEAU TWINS - VICTORIALAND LP

CAD 512 - DEAD CAN DANCE - SPLEEN AND IDEAL LP

CAD 613 - CLAN OF XYMOX - MEDUSA LP

DAD 609 - THIS MORTAL COIL - FILIGREE AND SHADOW dLP

BAD 711 - XYMOX - BLIND HEARTS 12"

CAD 703 - VARIOUS ARTISTS - LONELY IS AN EYESORE LP

CAD 705 - DEAD CAN DANCE - WITHIN THE REALMS OF A DYING SUN LP

CAD 710 - PIETER NOOTEN & MICHAEL BROOK - SLEEPS WITH THE FISHES LP

MAD 709 - PIXIES - COME ON PILGRIM mLP

CAD 803 - PIXIES - SURFER ROSA LP

CAD 807 - COCTEAU TWINS - BLUE BELL KNOLL LP

CAD 808 - DEAD CAN DANCE - THE SERPENT'S EGG LP

CAD 810 - WOLFGANG PRESS - BIRDWOOD CAGE LP

BAD 904 - PIXIES - MONKEY GONE TO HEAVEN 12"

BAD 902 - WOLFGANG PRESS - KANSAS 12"

BAD 906 - ULTRA VIVID SCENE - MERCY SEAT 12"

BAD 910 - PALE SAINTS - BARGING INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD 12"

JAD 911 - LUSH - SCAR mLP

CAD 901 - THROWING MUSES - HUNKPAPA LP

CAD 905 - PIXIES - DOOLITTLE LP

BAD 0013 - LUSH - SWEETNESS AND LIGHT LP

BAD 0011 - COCTEAU TWINS - ICEBLINK LINK 12"

BAD 0015 - PALE SAINTS - HALF-LIFE REMEMBERED 12"

CAD 0005 - ULTRA VIVID SCENE - JOY 1967 - 1990 LP

CAD 0007 - DEAD CAN DANCE - AION LP

CAD 0012 - COCTEAU TWINS - HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS LP

BAD 1009 - PALE SAINTS - FLESH BALLOON EP 12"

BAD 1001 - THROWING MUSES - COUNTING BACKWARDS 12"

CAD 1011 - WOLFGANG PRESS - QUEER LP

CAD 1012 - HEIDI BERRY - LOVE LP

DAD 1005 - THIS MORTAL COIL - BLOOD dLP

CAD 2004 - PALE SAINTS - IN RIBBONS LP

CAD 2007 - MICHAEL BROOK - COBALT BLUE LP

CAD 2017 - ULTRA VIVID SCENE - REV LP

CAD 2101 - HIS NAME IS ALIVE - SOME DAY MY BLUES WILL COVER THE EARTH LP

BAD 3005 - FRANK BLACK - HANG ON TO YOUR EGO LP

CAD 3002 - BELLY - STAR LP

CAD 3013 - DEAD CAN DANCE - INTO THE LABYRINTH dLP

CAD 3016 - RED HOUSE PAINTERS - RED HOUSE PAINTERS (ROLLERCOASTER) dLP

CAD 3014 - BREEDERS - LAST SPLASH LP

BAD 4001 - KRISTIN HERSH - HIPS AND MAKERS LP

AD 4007 - FRANK BLACK - HEADACHE 7"

BAD 4004 - RED HOUSE PAINTERS - SHOCK ME 12"

CAD 4005 - LISA GERMANO - HAPPINESS LP

DAD 4015 - DEAD CAN DANCE - TOWARD THE WITHIN dLP

BAD 5001 - WOLFGANG PRESS - GOING SOUTH 12"

CAD 5010 - TARNATION - GENTLE CREATURES LP

CAD 5013 - MOJAVE 3 - ASK ME TOMORROW LP

BAD 6013 - GUS GUS - POLYESTERDAY 12"

DAD 7004 - TARNATION - MIRADOR dLP

DAD 7005 - GUS GUS - POLYDISTORTION dLP

BAD 8011CD - MOJAVE 3 - WHO DO YOU LOVE? CDs

BAD 9004 - GUS GUS - STARLOVERS 12"

BAD 9017 - GUS GUS - VIP 12"

CAD 9015 - BRENDAN PERRY - EYE OF THE HUNTER LP

CADD 9006 - GUS GUS - THIS IS NORMAL dLP

CAD 2K02- GUG GUS - GUS GUS VS T WORLD LP

AD 2415 - BLONDE REDHEAD - EQUUS 7"

BAD 2509 - MINOTAUR SHOCK - VIGO BAY 12"

AD 2704 - M WARD - TO GO HOME EP 7"

CAD 2732 - BEIRUT - THE FLYING CLUB CUP

CAD 2809 - BON IVER - FOR EMMA, FOREVER AGO LP

AD 2817 - BON IVER - FOR EMMA 7"

CAD 2812 CD - JOHANN JOHANNSSON - FORDLANDIA CD

CAD 2821 - TV ON THE RADIO - DEAR SCIENCE LP

AD 2915 - THE BIG PINK - VELVET 7"

AD 2918 - ST VINCENT - ACTOR OUT OF WORK 7"

AD 2926 - CAMERA OBSCURA - THE SWEETEST THING 7"

AD 2934 - TUNE-YARDS - HATARI 12"

CAD 2904 - M WARD - HOLD TIME LP

CAD 2921 - BROKEN RECORDS - UNTIL THE EARTH BEGINS TO PART LP

CAD 2907 - CAMERA OBSCURA - MY MAUDLIN CAREER LP

AD 3X08 - EFTERKLANG - I WAS PLAYING DRUMS 7"

AD 3X18 - STORNOWAY - I SAW YOU BLINK 7"

AD 3X24 - ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI - ROUND AND ROUND 7"

AD 3X25 - CAMERA OBSCURA - THE NIGHTS ARE COLD 7"

CAD 3X33 - BROKEN RECORDS - LET ME COME HOME LP

BAD 3X36 - BLONDE REDHEAD - HERE SOMETIMES 12"

CAD 3X02 - TINDERSTICKS - FALLING DOWN A MOUNTAIN LP

CAD 3X03 - THE NATIONAL - HIGH VIOLET LP

CAD 3X20 - STORNOWAY - BEACHCOMBER'S WINDOWSILL LP

CAD 3X48 - TWIN SHADOW - FORGET LP

CAD 3117 - BON IVER - BON IVER LP

CAD 3119 - ZOMBY - DEDICATION dLP

BAD 3122 - BON IVER - CALGARY 12"

AD 3246 - DAUGHTER - SMOTHER 7"

CAD 3202 - MARK LANEGAN BAND - BLUES FUNERAL - LP

CAD 3204 CD - COLOURBOX - 4XCD

CAD 3229 - EFTERKLANG - PIRAMIDA LP

CAD 3231 - ST VINCENT & DAVID BYRNE - LOVE THIS GIANT LP

CAD 3304 - STORNOWAY - TALES FROM TERRA FIRMA LP

ADD 3355 - CAMERA OBSCURA - BREAK IT TO YOU GENTLY 2X7"

CAD 3306 - IRON AND WINE - GHOST ON GHOST LP

CAD 3314 - CAMERA OBSCURA - DESIRE LINES LP

CAD 3315 - THE NATIONAL - TROUBLE WILL FIND ME dLP

BAD 3116 - GANG GANG DANCE - GLASS JAR 12"

GU 2 LP - UNDERGROUND LOVERS - LEAVES ME BLIND LP

GU 5 LP - SPOONFED HYBRID - SPOONFED HYBRID LP

GUP 4 - INSIDES - CLEAR SKIN CD

 

This review also appeared on Flipside Reviews

Paul PLEDGER
22/11/2014


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