4AD is a British independent record label that was started in 1979, and is still active today. 4AD was originally formed as Axis Records, but this was changed when it became apparent that the name Axis was already being used by another music company. Although they continue to be a major influence in the independent music scene - their roster currently includes Bon Iver, Deerhunter, TV on the Radio and Scott Walker - the label will forever be associated with what became known as the 4AD sound.
That sound, epitomised in the mid 80s by bands like Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and the 4AD 'supergroup' This Mortal Coil, has often evoked words such as 'ethereal', 'mysterious' and 'otherwordly'. Coupled with the label's famously sumptuous album covers with rich, mysterious imagery, 4AD became synonymous with an indie outlook with a certain artiness. Their palette grew in the late 80s with the arrival of Throwing Muses and Pixies, but the label's unique sound is generally considered to have disappeared in the 90s though the quality of its acts remained high.
Ivo Watts-Russell, the label's mastermind and driving force, sold the label to Beggars Banquet in 1999 and no longer takes an active role in the label. .