100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #11

The KLF – Chill Out
Queen Victoria was Empress of India, according to her at least, despite the fact that she never went there. Am I the only person in the world who would do the same in her position? Call me narrow minded, but I’d much rather be in charge of the romantic, aromatic promised land in my head rather than the imperfect reality of poverty-stricken slums and shoe-less children. Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond had never been to America when they envisaged this aural tapestry of a road trip across the gulf coast. Even so, when you listen to it, it’s hard to think of anything else. The fact that it invented the moniker of “chill out music” is the least of ‘Chill Out’s achievements since nearly everything that’s followed in its wake has been soul-less and borderline evil. This stands a breed apart from its descendants. It’s a glorious patchwork sound collage of bizarre samples, pastoral sound effects, heavenly choirs, snippets of pop songs, steel guitars and radio transmissions. Each track is titled with a different part of a road trip such as “Six Hours to Louisiana, Black Coffee Going Cold”. It’s the sound of being in the back of a car in the wee small hours, window open, radio on low, while everyone else around you is asleep. It smoothly blends one great idea into another as if you’re drifting in and out of consciousness. At one point country and western slide guitars are played over a news programme portraying a tragic road accident; Tuvan throat singers are laid over passing cars and level crossings; ocean waves are laid over distant classic rock solos crackling in and out of focus: it’s the creativity and the intrigue around it that makes it a masterpiece and while there’s always another “chill out” record around the corner, there’ll only ever be one ‘Chill Out’. The KLF made this, then made a hugely successful dance pop album (#61 in this list) and then went ballistic, performing a grindcore/death metal version of their number one single with Extreme Noise Terror. Then they nailed a million pounds to a board of wood. Then they removed the million pounds and burnt it. Madness? Absolutely. Geniuses? Maybe. The fact that two un-travelled British guys could make a record like this is a London squat with a DAT machine has to be something close to it.
Listen to: n/a

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