The KLF:Chill Out

cover The KLF:Chill Out
(TVT - 1990)

So many fingers were pointing toward this one, I had to seek it out quickly.

I know why now; it's a masterful blend of music, samples and sounds, creating a 45-minute long Ambient train ride through space and time.

Chill Out, as I understand, was mixed "live" in the studio, as one complete piece. Apparently the U.S. distributors felt it necessary to separate it into 14 "individual" (but unbroken) tracks, giving them long descriptive titles like "Brownsville Turnaround on the Tex-Mex Border", "Six Hours to Louisiana, Black Coffee Going Gold" and "3AM Somewhere Out of Beaumont". (It still strikes me as odd that a couple of U.K. blokes would construct their mystical, musical trek across the Southern U.S...) The titles help clarify certain sections, I suppose, but I'm going to treat it as the artists intended, as a single (albeit long and multi-faceted) work.

Our excursion begins with quiet cricket and water sounds, beeping, song and TV samples, then the rumble of the train approaches. The sounds of its whistle, the clattering of the tracks and the dinging crossing signals are very evocative of the movement you feel throughout the peaceful trip. A regularly re-appearing pedal steel guitar flavors the atmosphere with a languid "SouthWestern-ness". The sounds of sheep and dogs also add a rural element.

A mutated voice chants, robotic yet aboriginal, overriding a long drone and the rumble of the train. Passing traffic roars and beeps, then the mournful pedal steel guitar claims center stage for a bit, intermixed with strange, synthetic noises which whiz by.

Through sampled vocal snatches, we meet the recurring "preacher" character, a grizzled extra from an old Western perhaps? He can get a bit repetious; "Get ready... all the way down the east coast...come back fat as a rat", but plenty of other sounds mingle into the mix, including a news report of an auto accident and other radio/TV clips.

The train rolls on... Elvis sings "In The Ghetto" (with lots of reverb, steel guitar and railroad track clatter). These sounds fade and are replaced by wind, wave and bird sounds, which are overridden by a steady hum and a wordlessly singing female voice. The guitar begins to strum again, and a familiar sonar blip appears, as do recurring vocals. A sampled rhythm fades in and out of the mix, more sheep bleat, children play. (This all might sound strange in print, but the work flows and evolves wonderfully... really!)

An aggressively wanky keyboard dominates the scene and the preacherman returns, really hitting his stride, along with other samples, sounds and textures. This passage picks up an actual beat for a while. Other radio/TV samples blend in, including a "Rock Radio" blurb and Van Halen guitar solo.

Things smooth out for some time with a soft drone, the sonar blip and seagulls, transposing into a miniature "battle of the bands" between a Big Band number and the Van Halen riff, both of which have their moments. The work reaches its most chaotic point here, the segues back into familiar tones and train sounds, bringing a sense of closure to the whole journey.

It's a very impressive construction, definitely a standout example of artistic sound manipulation and a great starting point for someone new to the genre. Chill Out  is a musical means of transportation. My thumb is up, hitching another ride...1 thumb up
This review posted July 12, 1997

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