On Chill Out, Chilling Out, and Coming Down

An exposition of The KLF’s “Chill Out” and derivative works, by Jethro R Binks.

Chill Out

In February 1990, The KLF released their classic album “Chill Out”. Although received with some confusion at the time, especially to those expecting either more of the rap/house of The KLF and their earlier incarnation The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, or of the Pure Trance club-oriented dance, nevertheless “Chill Out” has subsequently become regarded as a classic.

Alongside The Orb’s “Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld” album, released in 1991, and the Art Of Noise’s “The Ambient Collection“, released in mid 1990, which was compiled and remixed by Orb collaborator Youth, the three albums are generally credited with defining the “ambient house” genre, along with myriads of “ambient” remixes performed by both The KLF and The Orb for other artists.

Cover art for The KLF's "Chill Out" album featuring sheep mostly lying down in a field, in front of a dry stone wall, gate, and small tree.
Cover art for The KLF’s “Chill Out” album

Chilling Out

Chilling out, and ambient house, have their roots in the White Room; Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty’s Monday night “chill out” room which ran alongside Paul Oakenfold’s Land Of Oz acid house nights at the Heaven night club in London’s Charing Cross, for six months in 1989.

The White Room provided a tranquil refuge from the main dancefloor; Cauty and Paterson, occasionally joined by Youth, used multiple sources (records, CDs, cassettes) to create largely no-beat live collage mixes using sound effects, excerpts and samples, and eventually elements of their own multitrack recordings. The pair had been recording as The Orb (amongst other names), contributing to various releases on Wau! Mr Modo. Mostly these were dance music tracks, but as they developed their live “ambient house” sound, their own recordings, and their remixes for others, followed suit.

Legend has it that even at 20 mins long, and further edited and remixed in various ways, the track “A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld” was developed from much longer recordings of those Land Of Oz White Room sets. This became the first actual release of “ambient house” music, in October 1989 on WAU! Mr Modo (MWS017T); this was followed in December by a live re-creation in the form of a John Peel session.

But even before the White Room sets, the seeds of Cauty’s interest in what was to become ambient house had already been sown in the “minimal mix” of massive summer 1988 hit “Doctorin’ The Tardis” (KLF003), in the guise of The Timelords. Speaking to Melody Maker in March 1990, Jimmy Cauty explains how they fell upon the concept by accident:

“We did a mix of a House track, left the drums off by mistake and suddenly realised that the House pads and chords sounded brilliant wihout the beat. So we decided to do a few more things like that. Then, after we’re recorded several tracks we began to wonder what we’d call this sound and how we’d market it if we were a proper record company. The phrase ambient House was basically born out of cynicism, but once we’d come up with it we thought, ‘Okay, if it’s got to be called something, that’s as good a name as any'”.

Jimmy Cauty, Melody Maker, March 1990

Throughout the next 18 months, the ambient house concept would influence several KLF-associated releases:

  • “Madugada Eterna” from the “Kylie Said To Jason” CD single (Aug 1989: KLF010CD) (an excerpt from “Chill Out”)
  • Blue Danube Orbital” mix of “3AM Eternal” (Sep 1989: KLF005R)
  • “Chill Out” album (Feb 1990: KLFLP/CD5)
  • The “Pure Trance” mixes of “Last Train To Trancentral” (Mar 1990: KLF008R) (ambient mixes of the unreleased track “Go To Sleep”, fragments of both of which appear in “Chill Out”)

“The A side is so literal it may be totally unlistenable to anybody who is neither a freight train enthusiast or flat on their backs and out of their heads.”

KLF Info Sheet #7 description of the “Last Train To Trancentral” mixes

By summer 1990, The KLF had changed direction – “What Time Is Love” had been revived in its “Live At Trancentral” incarnation (KLF004X), and was the start of a series of hits over the next few years. However, the ambient and drone experiments were not forgotten; they were continued in subsequent releases:


Coming Down

On Thursday 4th February 2021, Chapter Three of the “Samplecity Through Trancentral” story was released, which comprised a new digital album by the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, entitled “Come Down Dawn”.

Cover art for “Come Down Dawn”, with the Pyramid Blaster logo at a suitably “jaunty” angle

In fact, the album was billed as a “pre-mix” of “Chill Out”, the practical outcome of which was the removal of whole sections of the original “Chill Out” which featured samples from Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, Earth Wind & Fire, Acker Bilk, Tommy Vance, 808 State, and Jesus Loves You. It appears that inclusion of these samples would have been problematic for release of the original “Chill Out” on the digital platforms, so the idea of the KLF Re-enactment Society was born, whose purpose is to not necessarily perform straight re-releases of the historic material, but to re-interpret it for the modern age, including in this case re-framing the original journey and giving the individual tracks new titles.

The term “pre-mix” suggests perhaps that this is in fact an earlier version of “Chill Out”, before those samples were added. In the March 1990 interview with Melody Maker, of some of those samples, Jimmy Cauty comments: “Most the them were ideas which we decided to use at the last minute”.

(Amusingly, recalling the “legal wrangle” over the use of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” on earlier album “1987”, the interviewer presumes that this time they have obtained clearance for the samples. Bill Drummond responds: “No. We’re probably gonna end up in trouble again.”.)


Analysing

On Thursday 4th February I performed an structural analysis of the differences between the new “Come Down Dawn”, and the original UK version of “Chill Out”. (It should be noted here that the version of “Chill Out” released in many other territories, including the USA, was slightly different in a number of respects, including some samples. Such alternative versions are not further considered here unless explicitly mentioned).

My initial analysis was published in some detail on Facebook (“The KLF” group, membership required), and subsequently slightly more briefly that evening on Twitter, after breaking the tracks apart to identify the common sequences and the differences.

A side-by-side comparison of the waveforms of the UK “Chill Out” album, “Come Down Dawn”, and “What Time Is Love” (Virtual Reality mix).

Other than perception of audio quality, the first 17 and a half minutes of “Chill Out” and “Come Down Dawn” are identical, apart from “Come Down Dawn” fades in ever so slightly later. For thereon, the most notable differences, apart from the wholesale removal of the sections with the samples as previously mentioned, are some overdubbing of bleeps playing the main “What Time Is Love?” rhythm, and additional Reverend Doctor Wade. In fact, if you listen hard enough, you can still hear some remnants of Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatros” and Tommy Vance “Rock Radio Into The 90s” jingle left over from the edit

The inclusion of the material from “What Time Is Love? Virtual Reality mix” (WTIL-VR) is quite interesting. When it was recorded was never quite clear; it is obviously of the style of the “Chill Out” album, but was only released some time after on the remix 12″ for “What Time Is Love (Live At Trancentral)”, the commercial hit version of the song.

Chill Out was originally 44min 33sec in length. A little over 13min of material containing the samples was excised, leaving a much shorter piece to be re-issued as a purported album. So one point of view might be that WTIL-VR, at about seven and a half minutes, was inserted to make up some of that time, being in the same style and hence in keeping with “Chill Out”.

Another point of view might be that WTIL-VR was a part of the original “Chill Out”, and was edited out for length on preparation for release. It must be remembered the album was designed to be fit over two sides on an LP, so was necessarily in two sections limited by length, and that was transposed over to the CD version, which was otherwise identical. (Typically, the longer running time of a compact disc would be exploited by the addition of extra tracks over those included on the LP vinyl release).

It has always struck the author as odd that while “Chill Out” prominently contains elements of the other main themes from the Pure Trance singles, “3 AM Eternal” and “Last Train To Trancentral / Go To Sleep”, it features no recognisable parts of “What Time Is Love”, the theme which initiated the whole Pure Trance series and was destined to be their most enduring theme.

(In fact, all three main themes, “What Time Is Love?”, “3 AM Eternal”, and “Last Train To Trancentral” each have their own complicated histories, which may be explored in another article).

Given that I find it somewhat unlikely that no elements of “What Time Is Love?” were ever a part of “Chill Out” at the point of its production; I find it credible that the WTIL-VR was in fact part of the original album, and was itself removed to edit the final album to required length; later the removed section was released on the “What Time Is Love?” remix 12″ KLF004Y, and then re-inserted to “Come Down Dawn” (although possibly not in the place from which it was removed).

WTIL-VR (and hence “Come Down Dawn”) also feature brief segments from “Doctorin’ The Tardis”. In fact as it appears on “Come Down Dawn”, there are additional segments of “Doctorin’ The Tardis” before the WTIL-VR insertion starts, overdubbed by previously unheard Reverend Doctor Wade samples. It isn’t clear if this additional “Doctorin’ The Tardis” material was originally part of a longer sequence from which WTIL-VR was derived (and was edited down for the 12″ release), or whether it has been added from other unused material.

The other final structural difference worth noting is that “Come Down Dawn” fades much more slowly than “Chill Out”, in fact there are about an additional 39 seconds or so of material to be heard on “Come Down Dawn”.

Beyond the structural analysis above, Scott Brady performed spectral analysis of the rips UK CD version of “Chill Out” (top), the US TVT version (middle), and “Come Down Dawn” (bottom), and concluded “CDD certainly appears to come from high quality sources; more than likely the master tapes. CDD > JAMSCD5 > TVT-7155-2”. To the casual listener, “Come Down Dawn” has a much more rounded, bassier sound.


Re-enacting

The KLF Re-enactment Society, which exists, had already shown its hand, although not by name, on 1st January 2021. The re-issue on digital platforms of the compilation of hit singles “Solid State Logic 1” (Chapter 5 part 1 of “Samplecity Through Trancentral”), was accompanied by the corresponding videos, remastered. Several of these recordings had minor edits and tweaks as compared with their originals from the early 1990s.

In the parlance of the KLF Re-enactment Society, which exists, then, I performed a re-enactment.

On the morning of Friday 5th February, based on my structural analysis, I reconstructed a full length version of Chill Out, which restored all the parts lost in “Come Down Dawn”. The latter was used as the base, preserving the additional overdubbed material (the WTIL theme beeps and the Reverend), the “WTIL Virtual Reality mix” sequence, and then the excised sample-ridden sections restored from the original UK version of the CD edited and blended back. The additional material on the fade was also preserved, making for a total length of 52mins 53secs at that point.

While I published it on mixcloud later that day, I didn’t actually expect it to last very long, and sure enough it had been taken down within the hour. It bore the somewhat uninspired title of “Chill Out Come Down Dawn Composite Mix“.

Meanwhile, in the same sort of timeframe, KiLN published their own mix, entitled “Pre-Mix Re-Mix Re-enacted”, quoting the language used in the Come Down Dawn release information: “Come Down Dawn by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu is also a pre-mix of Chill Out released by The KLF on the 5th of February 1990”, and that of the KLF Re-enactment Society, which exists.

I revisited my own mix again a few days later. Conscious that the final “Chill Out” mix was produced in order to fit the physical confines of two sides of vinyl, I decided I would “fix” the decisions that meant it was split into parts, and overlay them so that the final work is one continuous mix. This mix remains unpublished.


Sources, Resources, References and Links


Tributes

There have been a number of tributes, remixes, inspirations from and reinterpretations of “Chill Out” over the years. Here are some of them:

And an honourable mention for the Pink Floyd Limited Edition Trance Mixes from 1993/1994. The provenance of these mixes was a mystery for some time; they were commonly assumed to be the work of Alex Paterson but reportedly denied by him; Drummond and Cauty have also been implicated, but that seems less likely to me. For a full discussion, see Steve Worek’s article; Steve advises that subsequent to the article, a fan named Massimo Palumbo (aka DJ Fish) was found to be responsible.


Colophon

Thanks Thomas Touzimsky (proprietor, klf.de), Richard Osborn (video restoration), Andrew Lee (press archivist extraordinaire), Thomas Dawson (lost in a trance), Marek Mierzejewski (an image for every occasion), Nick Gilmour (ear to the ground, spy in the sky), Robert Elfving (Pure Trance biographer), Scott Brady (spectral analysis), and Marc Bower (master of cover versions); and Bill Drummond, Jimmy Cauty, Nick Coler and Ian Richardson.

Special thanks to Jack Sharp for invaluable help collating the Chill Out tributes.

This article was appointed the status of Significant Mirror Holding TWO.

In memory of Jack Atsidakos, and John Nolan.


History and Revisions

This article was originally written 13th Feb 2021 after the excitement of the release of “Come Down Dawn” and the subsequent analysis. A early draft was made available to the Kommittee of the KLF Re-enactment Society, and the following note was added to their history page:

“Over the passing decades there have been several hundred other interpretations of Chill Out, uploaded onto platforms – far too many to list here. All of these must be considered and respected as proto-re-enactments. Some consider The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu’s Come Down Dawn just the latest in a long tradition, even if The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu themselves, claim it to be a ‘pre-mix’.

“What the fuck is a pre-mix?” we hear a very justified doubter, snipe from the wings.”

Extract https://klfrs.com/history

“We are aware that there are some in The Society who thought we should have taken a more Hard Literal approach to our Re-Enactment of the album formerly known as Chill Out, rather than the New Lateral approach we chose to take in Chapter Three of Samplecity Thru Trancentral, a chapter currently known as Come Down Dawn.”

Further extract https://klfrs.com/history
  • 24 Feb 2021: typos and minor rewording, higher quality spectral analysis images; correct links and KiLN mix is back again
  • 29 Mar 2021: two more links, and article now Significant Mirror Holding TWO
  • 02 May 2021: added Chill Out Redux and Mixmaster Morris entries

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