1990, Music

Chill Out (1990) by The KLF

I haven’t the faintest idea what to do with this ambient concept album.

That’s right, it’s a concept album, but it’s ambient. Some people consider it ambient house, but there’s often no rhythm to it so I don’t really understand that designation. (I mean, doesn’t ‘house’ just apply to a specific speed?) You might think this isn’t that far off of Music for Airports and I’d guess you’d be right about that, but this is a little bit more ambitious and also more obvious about its concept – here there are sounds to tell you we’re on a train journey, you don’t need to read about the concept ahead of time necessarily. I’m not sure where the train journey is, though, as there are things that happen in it that don’t seem likely to happen near each other. Anyway…

I really don’t know what to do with this stuff. I’ve listened to a fair amount of ambient music at this point and I always have an easier time with the early stuff because I know at least that it was influential. (This album is supposedly a really big deal too.) But this is musically so far off my idea of ambient that I have extra trouble – there are samples, pedal steel guitar, and other sounds but also apparently the whole thing was performed live in studio, i.e. not edited. Maybe that’s to this record’s credit – of course it’s to this records credit, but that still doesn’t help me figure out what to do with it.

Because, at bottom, I want to like the music I listen to. And it’s okay when I just respect the music I listen to, but it’s an extra level of struggle for me when I view the music more as art than music, and that’s sort of how I feel here. I almost feel like this needs an accompanying film or something for it to really grab me as a work of art. As ambient it is at the same time both too distracting to actually drift into the background and also too formless for me to be truly compelled.

But I won’t deny that it’s art for a second, as it absolutely is. I’m just pretty sure it’s not for me.


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