It seems that every musical genre has its own champion, a band or individual that manages to transgress the boundaries of public taste, and appeal to a wider audience than would be generally expected. With the beginning of the 90s the music of the masses was a mixture of various dance based genres brought about by the increase in technology involved in the production of music, allowing for more complex song structures to be assembled at the mere touch of a button. Of the various dance and house bands that populated the charts, quite possibly the most infamous and revered was the Scottish based band The KLF. Unlike their musical counterparts they took a very different approach to their music, which managed to inject a fun and humorous element to many of their songs.
The Ancients of Mu Mu
The KLF was the brain child of Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty, who also where the only two permanent components of the group, with any additional roles within their tracks being filled with various studio and guest artists. These additional artists provided each track of theirs with a slight variation.
Drummond came from a musical background prior to the formation of The KLF and not only worked as an A & R executive for the WEA music label, but also played alongside the likes of Ian Brodie from The Lightening Seeds fame, and Holly Johnson, the lead singer of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Like Drummond, Cauty also came from a very musical based background, and he worked alongside some greats of the industry when he performed in the band Brilliant, who had the song writing and producing team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman backing them, along with Drummond as their A&R manager.
All Aboard for Transcentral
The album The White Room was originally flagged for release in the late 80s to coincide with an art house style film from Drummond and Cauty by the same name, with this album forming the soundtrack. After several problems with the film which caused its eventual cancelation, the album was almost completely overhauled to give it a broader mass market appeal that could stand alone independent of the film. This process delayed the album's release by two years, and it eventually made it on to the market in March 1991.
1. What Time is Love (LP Mix)
The KLF were first and foremost the pioneers of the ambient house music genre, and the peaceful and serene intro to the album, courtesy of the singer Black Steel plays to their general music genre. However, this tranquilly beginning is soon torn to shreds with the insane chants of the infamous "Mu, Mu", and the fast and frantic dance drum and bass line that build the atmosphere into all out body moving experience. Vocally, the honors are taken by Issac Bello of the British hip-hop group Outlaw Posse, who does a fine job of keeping his lyrical rapping crystal clear over the top of the abundance of chaos that is occurring behind from the rest of the band. The track has been recorded in a number of formats alongside this album version, with a majority of casual listeners being the most familiar with the Stadium House version, which replaced the tranquil beginning with a rawer live sound complete with crowd noises.
2. Make It Rain
Following on from the more commercial sounding previous track, Make It Rain takes on a much darker and heavier feel; as the bass line and drums really rattles out through the speakers with a great sense of importance. To contrast to the throbbing of the backing track the lofty and almost angelic tones of Maxine Harvey flow gently across the song and although not always completely in time with the backing, they give the track added colour to what would otherwise be a very black and white style of composition.
3. 3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)
Perhaps the true anthem of the album, 3 a.m. Eternal is a real masterpiece of music with every element that The KLF had at their disposal being thrown into the mix and shook up just for good measure. From the moment that you hear the gospel based chant of "KLF" from Maxine followed by the now familiar four note musical intro, the band's sound takes back its hardcore dance origins and gives the crowd the type of music that just can't help but make your body start to move in all sorts of ways that you never thought possible. Alongside the gospel based sounds of Maxine, the lead vocal line is taken by The KLF resident rapper Ricardo "Da Force" Lyte who just like Issac Bello is able to hold his own over the turmoil that is occurring all around him. Just like What Time is Love? this song is most aired as its Stadium House version which again features a more live format to it.
4. Church Of The KLF
More of a filler piece than anything else. This track is just here to provide a bridging gap between 3 a.m. Eternal and Last Train to Transcentral, although it does have some nice sounding gospel chanting from Maxine, it does little to add to the album itself.
5. Last Train to Transcentral (LP Mix)
The first thing you notice about the driving undertone to this track is that it has a very much train like chug to it. The rumbling bass line mimics the sound of a train's low thudding along the tracks, with the lighter cymbal tapping accenting the bass line. The whole song has a much slower tempo overall which escalates with rapidly played stringed instrument sections, before returning to its low pounding state. Once again vocalists' Ricardo Da Force and Maxine Harvey take the helm and steer the good ship KLF through its usual chaotic waters. This track was released as a single, but as with many of the band's single releases this track takes on a far more dance based feel to it than is present on the LP version, which is a much more toned down affair. Despite this change in tempo for the single mix the album version is a great little slowed dance track.
6. Build A Fire
The more dance and trance orientated beginnings of the album fall away with this track and, this song brings the album more in line with the band's previous album Chill Out which is a ambient house classic album, just perfect for unwinding and relaxing to. This has a very familiar sound to it, which those who have watched the David Lynch classic Twin Peakswill be able to pick up on straight away, as the background sound to the track contains the melody of the title theme within it. This is the first time on the album that Drummond and his great Scottish accent roll in for the lead vocals, and is joined once again by the angelically voiced Maxine who provides a lofty air to the tracks overall feeling.
7. The White Room
As the title song to the album The White Room keeps in place with the toned down tempo of the previous outing, and yet again features the vocal talents of Drummond. Drummond'svoice seems to have a really relaxing and soothing velvet tone to it, which gently laps at the listener's senses. The chilled out feel of the album is continued with some rather odd clarinet sounds occasionally punctuating the track, and adding some colour and variation to the proceedings.
8. No More Tears
No More Tears is quite an odd sounding track and clocking up at just over nine minutes it makes up almost a quarter of the album on its own. The oddness of the sound however doesn't detract from the quality of the song as it rolls along beautifully as a variety of samples and vocal styles are injected into the track along the way. When originally planned forrelease this song was a much shorter affair with a lot of the repetitive aspects of the track removed, however the repetition of the track sections actually produces a wonderfully relaxing and tranquil feeling, and coupled with such things as the almost random scat singing and piano work courtesy of singer Black Steel the song is a well rounded composition.
9. Justified And Ancient
Justified and Ancient begins almost note for note recreating the intro to the album, but this time instead of
like with What Time is Love?, the dance based beats don't kick in, and we are left with a chilled out and relaxed outro to the album, which caps off everything really neatly. In a biopic style this track seemingly takes us through just what the band and their beliefs are all about, with the singer Black Steel elaborating upon his brief appearance in the intro of the opening track of the album. As well as being the closing track to the album this song became the last single for the band from this album, however again in keeping with their other single releases it was vastly changed for the charts. The single version of this track is a much more commercial affair with a thumping dance beat to it and guest vocals from legendry country singer Tammy Wynette. The single also included a strap line of Stand By The JAMS, which was a play on the Tammy Wynette song Stand By Your Man. Alongside Tammy Wynette the vocal talents of Maxine Harvey and Ricardo Da Force take the honours instead of Black Steel on the single version. Comparatively between the two, even though I enjoy the dance aspect of the single version, I personally feel that the album version is perfectly arranged to top this masterpiece of an album off.
Last Call For Transcentral
Despite having a more rock and heavy metal based listening preference; I have always found that The KLF is one of those bands that I just keep going back to time and time again. It is very hard to believe that their music unfortunately is no longer with us, due to the destruction of all the original master copies of their entire discography by Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty. I feel fortunate to have picked up an original CD of this album when I lost the cassette of this spectacular masterpiece many years ago, however with the digital age it does now reside in its rightful place within my CD collection whilst its digital cousin graces my iTunes. In some ways this lack of any new copies of this album coming on to the market, to me just makes their music all the more special, as it was a piece of musical history that could never be repeated, and even if it was it would undermine the whole reason behind it.The KLF was perhaps to me one of the first bands that I took seriously, yes I had listened to other music before these guys came along, but it was with this band that my true musical appreciation grew.
Time to stand by the JAMS
3 a.m. Eternal (Stadium House Trilogy)
Last Train to Transcentral (Stadium House Trilogy)
What Time is Love? (Stadium House Trilogy)
The Klf are an odd group, allegedly setting fire to a million pounds once, just to make a statement. Their music was pretty cool stuff though and back in the nineties, they were at the forefront of their game, releasing trendy dance music that had bite as well as a commercial edge.
Who are they:
Essentially a two piece, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. Drummond brought out a book at the end of 2008.
'What Time Is Love' is just fierce. It is part rave and part house and part rap. The song sounds chaotic, like some vision of a post apocalyptic future, where the world is ruled by robots. The grimey tone of the song keeps it quite dark sounding, yet it has enough energy in it to make you want to dance.
'3 Am Eternal' benefits from a striking female vocal and a chunky chorus. This gave them their first number one hit. I like the rap in this, which sits somewhere between Will Smith and LL Cool J. The track is given a stadium feel with some chanting backing vocals shouting 'ancients of mu mu.' It has dated, but it is a very original piece.
One of the best songs on here is 'Last Train To Trancentral.' Similar to '3 AM' in style, but with a slightlier trancier edge. It has a superb rhythm, gun shots being fired, robotic vocals and a wicked piano line in it. The song sounds like Kraftwerk getting together with 2 Unlimited for a good old knees up!
The title track 'The Whiet Room' is a bit more laidback and has a reggae tinged vocal working through it, interesting bleepy sounds and a trippy rhythm that you could get lost in. Not very instant, but it provides a welcome rest from the 'noise' of some of the other songs.
For something even more mellow, the duet with Tammy Wynette on 'Justified And Ancient' is a stroke of genius. Her country vocals blend effortlessly into the song and turn it into a solid pop gem with just the right level of self referential humour about it.
A brisk nine songs might leave you feeling short changed, but for dance purists, this is worth investigating.
The fourth and final studio album by anarchic producer duo Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, "The White Room", released under their most famous pseudonym of the K(opyright) L(iberation) F(ront), is one of acid house's earliest forays into the mainstream charts. Originally released in spring 1991, the album suffered in subsquent years from purchasers mistakenly buying what they thought was "a greatest hits", but which in fact included radical "LP mixes" of familiar singles.
The album opens with the sound of the wind, and the beautiful vocals of Black Steel. A snippet of "Justified and Ancient" is heard, before the track crashes into the heady throb of "What Time is Love?" and the album kicks off proper. The whole first side is mastered to sound like a live concert, cheekily featuring samples from "The Doors Absolutely Live" and U2's "Rattle and Hum". The five tracks included in this suite have a distinct light and shade, with each track alternating in tone from the previous one. Track two, "Make It Rain", is a soulful funk track, driven by a squelching acid beat, Maxine Harvey's gorgeous vocals, and heavy use of a Stevie Wonder sample. Track three, "3 AM Eternal", is a sequel to the hit "What Time is Love". Again it took an older, pedestrian trance single and reworked it into a techno-pop nugget. Maxine Harvey's vocals feature, alongside the rapping of Ricardo Da Force. Unlike "What Time is Love?", "3 AM" is less of a solid adrenaline rush and more of a classically-structured song. The album then comes crashing down again into another short track, "Church of the KLF", ninety seconds of tongue-in-cheek myth-making from Drummond and Cauty, designed to lead (very effectively) into the roaring whoosh of "Last Train to Trancentral". After the initial thud at the beginning, and the blaring trill of keyboards, "Last Train" evolves into an amazing six-minute journey, driven by the appropriately train-like beat and the skipping, light vocals of Black Steel. It also does a very neat trick, bringing the listener down from all that frenetic techno, ushering an hushed ambient as a taster for side two of "The White Room".
Even on the CD, there seems a definite break here, as the "live" suite completes, and the last four tracks on "The White Room" reveal themselves to be individual dub-ambient tracks, sunny and wintry in feel. First up is the wonderful "Build a Fire", featuring the vocals of Bill Drummond himself, and the keening beautiful slide guitar of Graham Lee from the Triffids. A spaghetti western on an Obenheimer, "Build a Fire" is the closest "The White Room" gets to actually sounding like a soundtrack to something. Next up is the eponymous title track, again featuring Black Steel's vocals. Lyrically, "The White Room" hints at the myths and stories Drummond and Cauty wove around themselves in their earlier career, as well as revealing some of the plot from the (uncompleted) movie version of "The White Room". Strangely, it is also possibly the weakest track on the album, having less of a melody than most, and sticking in the mind less. This is the area of the album where ravehead KLF fans might have got bored back in 1991! Things pick up again with "No More Tears", a delicate epic originally due for release as a Christmas single back in 1989. For the last time, Maxine Harvey sings over a lolloping dub beat as melodies from previous songs on the album float in and out of the ambient whirl. The chorus of "sunlight on a winter's day" (sung here by Black Steel) encapsulated the second side of the album perfectly. Finally, in a reprise of the very beginning of the album, we have Black Steel back to sing "Justified and Ancient", a song which carried through the whole of the KLF's career. The song finishes, the wind stills, and the CD stops whirring.
So, is this patchwork worth investing in? Certainly, it does not have the pop thrills that a KLF single collection would. And MC Lyte's and Ricardo Da Force's rapping on the two radio hits now seems frightfully vogueish and dated. But there are depths and subtleties in the dub and pop on the album that deserve many repeated listens. You may even find that you start to move away from the obvious radio-play tracks, and start to wallow (as I have for nearly 20 years) in the glorious reflective music of side 2!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 What Time Is Love?
2 Make It Rain
3 3 A.M Eternal (Live at the S.S.L)
4 Church of the KLF
5 Last Train to Transcentral (Live From The Lost Continent)
6 Build A Fire
7 The White Room
8 No More Tears
9 Justified and Ancient