When my parents were teens, people bought music by record labels. Lables like Motown, Chess or Stax had a distinct sound that could be easily identified on the radio. People looked out for new artists from the labels they liked. Over time that kind of label based distinction went away, then slowly came back. A few notable holdouts like Tommy Boy, Factory, Solar, Astralwerks and one of my favorites 4AD carried on the tradition.
For fans of sophisticated alternative rock, there was nothing quite like the London England based 4AD. With twin guitars, ethereal synths and melancholy by the truck load, $AD became the sound of detached yet sensitive youth of the cassette generation. 4AD not only took the fringes of graphic design by storm, they would give a name to the stylized angst we know know as goth, slowcore and sadcore.
Bands like the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and later the Throwing Muses rode the wave of a distinct style, both musical and visual thanks graphic design from 23 Envelope. 4AD became the look and sound to be emulated by any aspiring alt rock band with delicate sensibilities.
The label still has some of what made it so distinctive today thanks in part to someone who was not even born when the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil were at their peaks. 19 year old Hanna Rodgers better known as Pixx has managed to capture the vintage 4AD attitude at it’s sonic best while introducing a fresh new take on stylized melancholy. Pixx is actually a trio that includes a guitarist, keyboard player and Rodgers on guitar and lead vocals.
Released in 2015, Pixx debut EP Fall In is a four song study in what might be the next big thing from London’s most famous art rock label. Musically, Fall In sounds very much like it could have featured Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Gutherie with it’s fuzzy twin guitar melodies behind Rodger’s relaxed almost talking styled singing voice.
Pixx has been described as a folktronica, but it mixes chill ambient with indie rock to create solemn beauty. In addition to the classic 4AD sound, Pixx has other influences that range from Fka Twiggs to Blonde Redhead, one of 4AD’s current bands.
The small band creates a minimal sound with sophisticated arrangements that pit melodies against delicate walls of sound. Rodger’s whos voice is always clear and un-distorted is stress through clever lyrics that create melancholy through phrasing and timing. There’s the normal dreamy love songs, but there is also a bit of sass, the kind you might expect in a Smiths song. The lyric “I’m sure, there is more to you than I deplore.” in the album’s final track “Deplore” only proves that Pixx is no vulnerable floating feather despite her youth.
With just four tracks, Fall In does what a good EP should: leaves you wanting more.
There are already songs preformed live and floating around the internet that are not on Fall In. One can only assume that Pixx will drop a full length album this year (one hopes). It’s reassuring to know that the classic 4AD sound has endured today and has found it’s voice and possibly new converts in the music of Pixx.