- Chill Out
Chill Out Studio album by The KLF Released February 1990 Recorded Trancentral Genre Ambient house
Length 44:19 Label KLF Communications Producer The KLF Professional reviews The KLF chronology The "What Time Is Love?" Story
The White Room
Chill Out is a seminal 1990 ambient house album by The KLF, portraying a mythical night-time journey up the U.S. Gulf Coast from Texas into Louisiana. The album is a continuous composition, in which sampled music (including Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, Acker Bilk and Tuvan throat singers), vocal samples and sound effects are overlaid with original music.
Composition and recording
Chill Out is a single continuous musical piece having many distinctive sections, each of which either segues into or introduces the next. The album as a whole is a progression, with percussion gradually introduced during the second half. The KLF have stated in interviews that the album was recorded in a 44-minute "live" take in their studio, Trancentral, located in the basement of The KLF member Jimmy Cauty's squat in Stockwell, South London. This was a DAT to DAT "live" edit — essentially Chill Out is a "best of" of many hours of collaborative ambient DJ jam sessions that also involved Alex Paterson of The Orb. These took place at both Trancentral and the monthly 'Land of Oz' at London's Heaven nightclub. Said Cauty, "There's no edits on it. Quite a few times we'd get near the end and make a mistake and so we'd have to go all the way back to the beginning and set it all up again". According to Cauty's co-founder of The KLF, Bill Drummond, the album took two days to put together. Record Collector compared The KLF's production method to that of established electronic musicians: "While electronic dinosaurs like Jean Michel Jarre and Klaus Schulze were walling themselves in with banks and banks of synthesizers, computers and electronic gadgetry the KLF were doing the opposite—making a crafted work like Chill Out with the bare necessities of musical survival."
After recording, the duo thought the sound to be evocative of a trip through the American Deep South. Drummond said "I've never been to those places. I don't know what those places are like, but in my head, I can imagine those sounds coming from those places, just looking at the map." The titles of the parts are poetic descriptions—often complete sentences—incorporating statements of time, place and situation along the Gulf Coast journey.
The album has many recurring musical elements, which unify and merge the parts into the collective whole, such that a part considered in isolation is incomplete despite its distinctiveness. Common characteristics of most parts include ethereal background synthesizers, the use of echo and pitch bend, samples of nature and transport, and the punctuation of soft synthesizer loops by sudden flourishes of harmonious sound. The Deep South is variously represented using original pedal steel contributions from Graham Lee and emotionally-charged samples of US radio broadcasts: an evangelist's sermon, a range of samples of a very intense salesman, and, in "Madrugada Eterna", the detailed news report of a fatal road accident.
Despite the specific US settings, Chill Out is multi-ethnic, its journey taking in pastoral shepherds, Russian broadcasts, Tuvan throat singers ("Dream Time in Lake Jackson"), exotic birds, and an African-sounding original female vocal from The JAMs' 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) that later became The KLF's "Justified and Ancient".
Elements of The KLF's "Pure Trance" singles "3 a.m. Eternal" and "Last Train to Trancentral" are brought to the fore during the second half of the album, progressing from the minimalist synths of the opening half. Similarly, samples of other artists' work appear as the composition develops, harmonising with The KLF's original instrumentation.
Parts of the original Trancentral and Land Of Oz sessions not used for Chill Out were developed to become The Orb's single "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld" and the ambient KLF Communications album Space. There are also several bootleg recordings available with additional versions.
The samples used in Chill Out contribute fundamentally to the character of the composition. In particular, the recurring sampled sound effects of rolling stock and other transport illustrate the journey concept, often during segues between parts of the composition. Many of these effects are taken from the 1987 CD version of Elektra Records' Authentic Sound Effects Volume 2. The tracks used are "Crossing Bells and Horn with Electric Train Pass" and "Short Freight Train Pass", along with processed versions of "F18 Diamond Fly-By", "Dodge Van Starts, Drives Out", and "Surf". Samples of American, British and Russian radio stations are also used, including the BBC pips and a jingle from Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1: "Rock radio into the nineties and beyond".
The album features samples of distinctive melodies from the musical recordings of other artists: Elvis Presley's 1969 UK #2 single "In the Ghetto", Fleetwood Mac's 1968 UK #1 single "Albatross", and Acker Bilk's 1961 US #1 single "Stranger on the Shore" all feature prominently, in each case set to an accompaniment of original music. The composers of these hits receive co-writing credit for "Elvis on the Radio Steel Guitar in My Soul", "3am Somewhere out of Beaumont", and "A Melody from a Past Life Keeps Pulling Me Back" respectively, and the performers are thanked in the Chill Out sleevenotes. Boy George is also thanked, under his pseudonym Jesus Loves You, for a sample from the single "After the Love", which features on "3am Somewhere out of Beaumont". Short samples from the Van Halen instrumental Eruption emerge throughout the song "A Melody from a Past Life Keeps Pulling Me Back". Shortly after the 2:00 mark of "The Lights of Baton Rouge Pass By", a synthesizer sample from 808 State's 1989 acid house hit "Pacific" can be heard. During the last 30 seconds of "A Melody from a Past Life Keeps Pulling Me Back", a faint sample can be heard from the opening of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" from their album Meddle.
Reviews and influence
At the time of Chill Out's release, Q Magazine called it an "impressionist soundtrack" whose "spartan but melodic electronic strains ease gently through wide open spaces", and concluded that the album is "both imaginative in itself and successful in inducing a blissed out mood of peace and relaxation (at least at night)." NME described Chill Out as "a riot of running water, birdsong and electronic womb music". The Face proposed that if the listener is not under the influence of drugs, the album sounds "hopelessly pompous and almost classical."
Allmusic awarded the album 5 stars and called it "one of the essential ambient albums." In a 1994 retrospective review, Q Magazine called The KLF "ahead of their time" and added that "the fact that Chill Out was seen largely as a urinary extraction exercise at the time when such sound-painting now shapes young careers lends poignancy to its more balmy yet knowing moments." The Times called the album "The KLF's comedown classic".
In a 1996 feature, Mixmag named Chill Out the fifth best dance album of all time, citing Jimmy Cauty and Alex Paterson as having "kickstarted" ambient music with their DJ sets at the "seminal" house night 'Land Of Oz'. Mixmag declared that "Chill out is a gorgeous patchwork of sound, noise and melody... the samples are carefully woven into a beautiful spider's web of sound." In contrast, American magazine Trouser Press likened Chill Out to "an accidental recording of 1970 Pink Floyd sessions during which all the participants have either left or fallen asleep", adding that "it's the pleasantly attenuated soundtrack to a non-existent film that is easily forgotten."
In July 2004, UK performance collective Popdamage "reconstructed" Chill Out as a live performance at The Big Chill music festival. Many of the vocal and musical samples were recreated live on stage.
The use of a journey as a unifying musical or conceptual thread featured several times in Cauty and Drummond's work, including The White Room, "Last Train to Trancentral", "Justified and Ancient" and "America: What Time Is Love?". Cauty's Space and The Orb's debut album, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld also employ the journey concept.
Sheep, which appear both on the recording of Chill Out and in its sleeve artwork, became a theme of The KLF's output, featuring in the ambient video Waiting, The White Room album artwork, and later — in a macabre gesture — at their controversial appearance at the 1992 Brit Awards ceremony. When questioned about the Chill Out sleeve, Drummond explained:
“ That's a very English thing and it has the vibe of the rave scene over here. When we're having the big Orbital raves out in the country, and you're dancing all night and then the sun would come up in the morning, and then you'd be surrounded by this English rural countryside... we wanted something that kind of reflected that, that feeling the day after the rave, that's what we wanted the music for. ”
Bill Drummond has documented his affinity for pedal steel and country music, stating that although he has "loved all sorts of music, ... country music is the only music [he's] been totally able to identify with", and declaring: "the weep of a pedal steel guitar is the sound of heartstrings being torn".
Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond are credited on the sleeve for "composition, compilation and collation" of the album. Graham Lee, guitarist for The Triffids, contributed original pedal steel guitar to the album and is thanked on the sleeve. His pedal steel also features on Drummond's 1986 solo album The Man, and "Build a Fire", a song from The KLF's The White Room of 1991. Nick Coler, The KLF's regular programmer and keyboardist, is also thanked on the sleeve, along with Cauty's co-founder of The Orb, Alex Paterson. Due to Paterson's growing concern that The Orb should not be perceived as a side project of The KLF, The Orb split in April 1990, with Paterson retaining the name. The subsequent release of the ambient Space LP—originally intended to be The Orb's debut album —was credited only to Cauty.
The track listing of Chill Out uses the start- and end-points of the parts, instead of the conventional track numbering system, indicating that the album be treated as a single composition. For the original KLF Communications CD release, the entire album was written to one track.
- "Brownsville Turnaround on the Tex-Mex Border" 1:43
- "Pulling out of Ricardo and the Dusk is Falling Fast" 1:29
- "Six Hours to Louisiana, Black Coffee Going Cold" 3:01
- "Dream Time in Lake Jackson" 2:37 sample (help·info)
- "Madrugada Eterna" 7:41
- "Justified and Ancient Seems a Long Time Ago" 1:09
- "Elvis on the Radio, Steel Guitar in My Soul" 2:40 sample (help·info)
- "3 a.m. Somewhere out of Beaumont" 9:50
- "Wichita Lineman Was a Song I Once Heard" 5:57 sample (help·info)
- "Trancentral Lost in My Mind" 0:56
- "The Lights of Baton Rouge Pass By" 3:26
- "A Melody from a Past Life Keeps Pulling Me Back" 1:51
- "Rock Radio into the Nineties and Beyond" 1:27
- "Alone Again with the Dawn Coming Up" 0:19
Notes and references
- Longmire, Ernie et al. (2005). KLF discography
- Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0679755748.
- ^ Weisbard & Marks, 1995. p.213
- ^ a b c "The KLF: Enigmatic Dance Duo", Record Collector, 1 April 1991 (link).
- ^ a b c Longmire, Ernie ("Lazlo Nibble"), "KLF is Gonna Rock Ya!", X Magazine, 1 April 1991 (link).
- ^ "Madrugada Eterna" is Spanish for "Eternal Dawn".
- ^ Authentic Sound Effects Volume 2, Elektra Records 1987 (link to audio samples).
- ^ a b KLF Communications, Chill Out JAMS LP5, sleevenotes, February 1990.
- ^ Cranna, I., Chill Out, review, Q Magazine, February (?) 1990 (link).
- ^ New Musical Express, 20 January 1990 (link).
- ^ McCann, I., Chill Out review, The Face, February 1990 (link)
- ^ Bush, J., Chill Out review, Allmusic. Retrieved 6 April 2006.
- ^ A "urinary extraction exercise" is (in convoluted British slang) a "piss take" - a targeted joke disguised as something serious.
- ^ Collins, A., Chill Out review, Q Magazine, June 1994 (link).
- ^ Fields, Paddy, "And you thought they were dead", The Times (London) ISSN 0140-0460 , 4 May 2001, Features p2.
- ^ Philips, D., "50 Greatest Dance Albums: # 5", Mixmag, March 1996 (link).
- ^ Robbins, I., Trouserpress.com - The KLF. Retrieved 19 April 2006.
- ^ Plagenhoef, Scott (1 September 2003). "On Second Thought - The KLF - Chill Out". Stylus Magazine. http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/on_second_thought/the-klf-chill-out.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
- ^ Verrico, L. "The Big Chill, Herefordshire" review, The Times, 2 August 2004.
- ^ The term "Orbital raves" refers to those being held in London's Metropolitan Green Belt, close to the M25 Orbital Motorway.
- ^ Drummond, B., "They Called Me Up In Tennessee", 45, (Little & Brown, ISBN 0-316-85385-2 / Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11289-4), 2000.
- ^ "The White Room: Information Sheet 8", KLF Communications, 1990 (link).
- ^ Sleevenotes, Space, KLF Communications, SPACE LP1, July 1990.
- ^ Compiled by Ernie Longmire, this has been the authoritative KLF discography on the internet for some 10 years or more and has been the subject of long-term scrutiny and peer review by KLF fans and collectors. It is now maintained by the fan site klf.de.
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