Living To Music – The KLF ‘Chill Out’




YEAR: 1990

This Sunday (September 2nd) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. If it’s not possible to make the allotted time, hopefully you can join in at your convenience at some point during the following week. See update here:

Back in 1990, with the Rave scene at its height, ‘chill out rooms’, where you could escape the constant main room 4/4 thud, were now a feature at a number of club nights and parties. Here the DJs set a more spaced-out atmosphere, creating trippy ambient soundscapes as opposed to rock the house rhythms. Ambient music had, of course, existed outside of the clubs previously, its best-known exponent being Brian Eno, whose electronic experimentations set the tone back in the ’70s (although you can trace its origins further back via the avant-garde). The DJs would pepper things up further with perhaps Pink Floyd, a BBC sound effects album, a section from a sci-fi movie score, a Strauss Waltz, or some weighty Dub – anything that fitted the vibe and enhanced the vibrations.

The pioneers of this new ‘Ambient House’ approach, as it was first dubbed,  included Mixmaster Morris, who recorded as The Irresistible Force, and The Orb, whose  ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld’, issued on 12” a few months earlier, and running for a whopping 19 minutes, was the precursor to ‘Chill Out’. The link between the 2 projects was Jimmy Cauty, who worked in partnership with Alex Patterson when making Orb records, and with Bill Drummond (formerly manager of The Teardrop Explodes / Echo & The Bunnymen) on KLF material, Cauty and Drummond’s prankster ethos reaping dividends throughout the early ’90s.

In 1989, whilst Paul Oakenfold hosted the main room at London’s Heaven for their Monday night Land Of Oz sessions, Patterson and Cauty took over the club’s VIP room for their legendary ambient excursions, and it was these that provided the inspiration for ‘Chill Out’, which was recorded in their studio (live at Trancental) as one continuous performance and, according to Cauty, without any edits – when they made a mistake they started again from the beginning, attempting numerous takes until they’d got it just the way the wanted. The KLF then released it on their own label, KLF Communications, the album sleeve tipping its hat to Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’ and its cover picture of a cow, with its content described as ‘mythical night-time journey up the U.S. Gulf Coast from Texas into Louisiana’.

It would quickly become a cult-classic, essential after-party listening. When the club had closed, but the buzz remained, especially for those who, as we used to say, were ‘on one’, it was the perfect LP to put on when you got back home and kicked back.

I loved the use of the trio of ’60s hits that ghosted in and out along the way – ‘Albatros’ by Fleetwood Mac’, ‘In The Ghetto’ by Elvis Presley’ and ‘Stranger On The Shore’ by Acker Bilk (this approach had previously been used to great effect via Minnie Ripperton’s 1975 hit ‘Loving You’, which featured on ‘Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain’).

Having previously topped the chart with the novelty hit ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ in 1988, under the alias of The Timelords, following-up its success with a tongue in cheek book called ‘The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way)’. The KLF would go on to score a handful of top 5 hits between 1990-92, including the #1 ‘3 A.M. Eternal’, whilst their next album, ‘The White Room’ would peak at #3 (they’d also enjoy top 10 success in 1991 as the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, their original name, under which they began recording in 1987). Cauty and Drummond would later gain notoriety within the art world, under their K Foundation banner, filming themselves burning a million pounds in 1994.

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

Chill Out Wikipedia:

Living To Music Facebook Events Page:

Original Living To Music Post (including guidelines):

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to Living To Music – The KLF ‘Chill Out’

  1. nigeyb August 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Great write up. Great album.

    A very minor point…..didn’t The JAMMs (Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu) predate the KLF? That’s the way i remember it.

    The JAMMs were even more blatantly copyright infringers that the Kopyright Liberation Front (KLF) themselves.

    Great days.

  2. greg wilson August 29, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Yeah, they’d been putting out stuff as The JAMM’s since 1987, although they didn’t have chart hit under the name until ‘It’s Grim Up North’ in 1991. The name came from the book ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’ trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.


  3. dancing james September 1, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Have already put it on, and immediate suffering euphoric recall of acid comedowns and post rave bliss.

    How the hell could an album of wild pitch bend, train and sheep samples, bits of Elvis and radio snippets make such sense.? I remember the way it would ebb and flow, like the LSD inside me, wafting back and forth.

    The KLF have always had a special place in my musical history. It was only after the fact that I came to understand how amazing they were. That even when being utterly flippant they were making serious points. Their guide on how to have a number one hit is still relevant.

    As a composition Chill Out fascinates me, a mellow melange of incongruous noises that somehow make perfect sense together. When I first heard it, I could not tell if it was a joke or utter genius, these days I see it as both and neither. The slide guitar and snatches of Elvis were things that at the time felt they should have been abhorrent to me (“Elvis never meant shit to me”), but now seem to evoke whiteman soul as I have grown up. There appears to be no sense of conventional song structure or anything I had been used to in music up until then. Mixtapes as I new them were either rave, house or hip hop, so the non beatmatched collaging techniques were utterly beguiling and intriguing to me.

    The echoes of the rave judder through, I remember them setting off ecstacy rushes in me. I still find myself muttering “come back, fat as a rat, all the way down the east coast” when I ride around, the sampled radio chat has never left my head after all these years, but has somehow taken on a lyrical sense despite being meaningless to me.

    IIRC correctly Drummond and Cauty had not been to the USA when they made the album yet it somehow has the elements of Americana yet also being littered with ethnic chanting and all manner of other stuff.

    It was with some trepidation that I put the CD on again after a few years of not having listened to it. How would it fare, would it disappoint? Did it need me to be enhance to appreciate it. The album still sounds amazing and no, chemical enhancement was not needed, and the emotional rush of listening to it with a clear head and set of ears showed that it stood up on on its own to me.

    An utter fucking wow of an album to listen to.

  4. m:cast radio September 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Listen to the album in it’s entirety here… http://mcastmusic.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/the-klf-chill-out-2/ 🙂

  5. Paul Wright September 3, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    After a hectic few weeks this hit the spot perfectly, lovely to relax and drift off to this one last night.

    Superb ambience throughout. I started listening to the KLF as a kid, my brother bought What Time Is Love on 12″ which used to get hammered and I had a tape of the white room copied from a mate at school. I didn’t really discover chillout until I was finishing at Uni, i’d been listening to The Orb for ages but hadn’t appreciated Cauty’s influence early on. About the same time I read The Illuminatis! Trilogy after listening to all talk of the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu years before! An old brass band friend of mine also ended up playing on their Acid Brass Version of F*ck The Millenium!

    Interesting blend and samples, love the tuvan throat singing! Lovely to switch off to this one 😀

    All The Best

  6. Lou Lou September 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Having not read the blog post before listening and my only knowledge of KLF being 3am Eternal, I was very happily suprised with this album. Had I been on my own I’d have been checking i was playing the correct cd.

    As it was, I totally zoned out listening to it. I felt as if I was in that half sleep awake place within dreams when different memories and sensations float in. Enjoyed the slide guitar southern feel throughout and was surprised by the elvis interlude. Find it hard to describe what I felt about it but loved every minute and will definately be listening again when I need to unwind. Beautiful!

    Thanks G & T

  7. BrianE September 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Although being aware of some chillout stuff, mainly by the Orb I hadn’t heard this before. Superbly well put together with some fantastic samples such as the throat singing etc as well as the awesome panning effects. Really stunning soundscapes rushing through my ears and into my brain cells throughout. I got the American South connection with the slide guitar and Elvis samples. I found it hard to concentrate 100% throughout so I will have to listen again as I no doubt missed parts. But this is the same with any album I find, it’s impossible to take in everything on 1st listen. Good to hear it on a great system also so many thanks to our hosts for the evening ( Greg and Tracey) for the experience.

  8. Nadia September 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    I have been told to chill out more times than I care to mention and it usually makes my blood boil. The truth is I don’t really know how. As I listened to this I paced the room and found it hard to sit still or sit with the stillness. Once I stopped asking why it wasn’t going anywhere it did take me to a place ….somewhere out of my hot head….somewhere cool. Thanks

  9. Sauve Phil September 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Great to see this album appreciated for the Master piece it is , thanks for the ‘blog’ ….

    For KLF fans out there what does the remind you of ……. back in 1970 ….


    Do Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber know their epic contribution to Warehouse Rave and trance?

  10. lec September 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    I agree with lou and Nadia…it totally took me somewhere….however, I’m not a fan of slide guitar but that is the only negative about the whole album for me…truly just loverly!

  11. Mike June 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Have you checked out “Chill out was an album I once heard” by Bovine Boy?


  1. The KLF 'Chill Out' - August 29, 2012

    […] The KLF 'Chill Out' This 1990 cult classic is next up for Living To Music. Info here: Living To Music – The KLF 'Chill Out' | Greg Wilson […]

Leave a Reply