The KLF, "3AM Somewhere Out Of Beaumont"
Damn, Santa should bear gifts this well. Here's another rarity from the deleted KLF catalogue, their 1990 LP Chill Out, which has long been out-of-print and is fetching crazy prices on the eBay. This should allow you to save some money and in turn to buy something even nicer for your favorite music blogger. For the record, I love cashmere and am a 40 regular. It's also another seminal release that emerged from the rave chillout room, the space that gave birth to the ambient house sound of the early 1990s.
It's also the perfect complement to our last post on Space, Jimmy Cauty's solo record of the same year. It's not surprising, as this album emerges from the same series of recording sessions that went down in Cauty's South London squat and the DJ sets he, Alex Paterson and Bill Drummond were putting together at Paul Oakenfold's Land of Oz club in 1989 and 1990. As we mentioned then, Cauty was both co-founder of The Orb with Paterson and The KLF with Bill Drummond in the late 1980s. As the decade ended, those three had to choose their own adventures and figure out which project would take precedent. It came to a head because of the fruits of those recording sessions which saw the acid housers take an ambient turn; that music forced Cauty and Paterson to decide whether they would release their material on KLF Communications or the unaffiliated Big Life label, i.e. whether The Orb would be its own entity or The KLF's younger brother. This lead to The Orb's break-up and the erasure of Paterson's involvement in those earlier sessions. (While his contributions and name appear nowhere on Space, he is thanked on Chill Out.)
Cauty and Drummond built off of the ideas brought up in their recent experiments in the studio and club to create the first KLF LP, Chill Out. It was reportedly the result of a nearly 45-minute "live" take in the studio, which turns out not to be anywhere near as spontaneous and jammy as that sounds. As Cauty told Record Collector magazine in 1991 regarding the Chill Out recording, “We’d get near the end and make a mistake, so we’d have to go all the way back to the beginning and set it all up again”. Nonetheless, the fact that it is a single, long track and has a collage-y feel always make me think it is the result of an epic studio jam that luckily was recorded. Ignorance is bliss. The LP was first released in 1990 on KLF Communications as both a single track CD and a 14-track vinyl record, getting a US release via Wax Trax! Records the following year. The above tracks come from this 1991 release, while the comments will reveal the original KLF Communications CD version.
If you have listened to the Space album, you will have a good sense of what to expect here. Cauty and Drummond continue the synths and samples approach on this one, creating another long, singletrack mix that brings together otherworldly electronics and snippets of real-life voices, nature field recordings and classic rock and pop songs. It's an amazingly democratic soundscape; on the song/section entitled "Elvis On The Radio, Steel Guitar In My Soul," Elvis exists as an equal alongside the sounds of a train, insects and the plucks of a steel pedal guitar, with none of them dominating, each one drifting in and out over the course of a lovely few minutes. It evokes images of a road trip through desolate country, windows down, radio stations coming in and out.
Unlike a lot of ambient music, most of the tracks are quite short, a little over a minute, quick stops on the way. The highlight for me is the epic centerpiece, the 11-minute "3AM Somewhere Out Of Beaumont," where all of this—nature, pop culture, infrastructure, travel, fantasy—get the room to stretch out. This one features samples of Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" and "Oh Well," as well as Jesus Loves You's "After The Love," as well as the chirps, roars and swooshes of the natural world, all of which emerge out of a lush landscape of synth pads. For me, the gentle pace captures that feeling of travel, when you caught your train or bus and are en route, with nothing to do but enjoy that interstice, that void that is the landscape between destinations, which oftentimes is more memorable than the final stop. Finally, I wanted to share "A Melody From A Past Life Keeps Pulling Me Back," one of the shorter, interlude-y segments and not just because of the awesome title. I just love how the stuttering hi hats of a dance track gets buried under the sounds of nature and noise, creating a haunted space in a minute and 40 seconds. For those who don't trust me, Pitchfork ranks another track from the LP, "Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard," its 80th best song of the 1990s.
For me, of all of the music and recordings to come out of this chillout period, this one captures best the utopian energy that lurks behind that moment. There's an undeniable spatial purpose behind this album, which Drummond confirmed while discussing the unforgettable sheep album cover with X Magazine in 1991: "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." The boys succeed in evoking a time and place, an imaginary one built out of the actual practices, desires and spaces of the early 1990s. Over 45 minutes, Cauty and Drummond have imagined a new sonic world, a fascinating one built from the background noises—pop songs we have head a million times, the infrastructure we take for granted, the nature that we keep contained—of the existing world. For me, that is utopian thinking, constructing future spaces from current desires and critiques.
I came across this fascinating passage in Clash describing the concept behind the album: "From the song titles, we surmise that this is an journey through the American South, a ride along the Gulf Coast. Rather than being inspired by personal experience, the journey was an imaginary one. “I’ve never been to those places,” Drummond revealed to X Magazine in 1991. “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.” This definitely captures more of that utopian spirit, utilizing the classic trope of a voyage from the world as-is to an imagined land that can be found from the very first evocation of the concept in Thomas More's book.
I want to wish everyone reading a happy and safe New Year's Eve and an amazing start to 2016. I am truly excited about what we have built up here at Pound for Pound over the past few months and look forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the year ahead. I'll see you on the other side, I love you all.