The KLF – Chill Out

The KLF – Chill Out

5/5

1990

Since any discussion of the KLF invariably revolves around their art-terrorism stunts (burning 1 million pounds sterling, firing machine gun blanks into their audience, etc.), it’s easy to forget they crafted such a uniquely soothing album as 1990’s Chill Out. And never has an album been so aptly named. At the time, the album was lumped into the so-called ambient house movement, and while that moniker is mostly accurate, Chill Out is nearly entirely beatless, with only a few tenuous connections to house music. Essentially a soundtrack to an imaginary late-night Gulf Coast road trip, the record finds Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty incorporating found sounds (think chugging trains, wind chimes, bleating lambs), fragmented radio broadcasts, sparkling synths and shimmering steel guitar and samples of everything from Tuvan throat singers to Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto.” What’s consistently remarkable is how the KLF blend such seemingly incongruous parts into a hypnotic whole. Indeed, not a single element goes to waste—even the more dissonant sounds that find their way into the mix enrich the atmosphere rather than detract from it. Also, while nearly all ambient music is content to sink into the background, Chill Out takes a different approach. Sure, there’s still the use of repetition and texture, and the music rarely calls attention to itself, but the record often introduces new elements at random, rewarding close listening in ways other ambient music doesn’t and somehow becoming more relaxing the more attention is paid. Listening to Chill Out, it’s easy to imagine nodding off in the backseat of a car, looking out at the starlit Louisiana landscape as you ride off into the night. Essential.

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Posted on February 10, 2012, in The KLF. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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