Balearic Mike’s Musical Diets / Week 43: The KLF

Words & selections by Balearic Mike.

After watching the brilliant documentary, Who Killed The KLF, this week I’ve dug out my KLF records, and here they are…Let’s start at the beginning, and for me, with the best.

The KLF – What Time Is Love (Pure Trance 1) – KLF Communications 1988

Balearic Mike What Time Is Love 1

There are very few records which completely encapsulate the drama, sheer excitement, total ecstasy, and dizzying euphoria of the acid house years 1988 to 89 like this record does for me. It is the complete acid house experience on vinyl, which considering it doesn’t even really seem to use the infamous Roland TB 303, at least not in the way you would expect, is quite some feat.

I first heard What Time Is Love? at The Zap Club and The Escape in Brighton, late in 1988, and then continued to hear it constantly for the next year. I managed to buy a copy in Rounder Records early in ‘89, finally managing to give a passable rendition to Mark behind the counter, as I didn’t have a clue what it was called or who it was by.

It`s the perfect trance record – with the ultimate riff, which just loops and loops and builds and builds. It propels itself along with an unrelenting sense of urgency and energy, pulsating in and out of your consciousness like some hallucinatory LSD trip. 

No surprise then that it was hugely influential. In fact, so much so that numerous tracks lifted it wholesale throughout 1989, resulting in the band themselves compiling them all onto a mini-LP, and releasing The What Time Is Love Story themselves. It’s more original than suing everyone I suppose. The other versions were generally pretty good, and I still own the Dr Felix one – from Italy –  as the other side is a favourite Balearious Beat of mine! 

The Neon cover and Liaisons D version are also pretty good, which is more than I can say for the bands own Primal Remix or Techno Slam Mix. I think I’ve kept this later 12 because I just love the look of the yellow and black sleeve, and it’s got the original on as well.

Balearic Mike What Time Is Love 2

The KLF – 3 A.M. Eternal (Pure Trance 2) – KLF Communications 1989

Balearic Mike 3AM Eternal 1

Bookending the start and end of that summer, The KLF`s next 12” was actually very different, but every bit as beguiling and wonderful. 

3 A.M. Eternal has a beautiful, softer, ethereal quality to it, much like some of the Italian house records which were beginning to get played in the UK clubs at the time. I always went for the mix on the B-side, sometimes known as 3 A.M. Eternal (Break For Love) – for its cheeky sampling of the drums from the Raze classic. It’s a gorgeous, sexy, late-night tune, designed I imagine for dancing I the open-air of some marvelous, magical Mediterranean nightclub, or in a field in the South Downs, whichever your lucky enough to be able to do.

I think I picked this up in Black Market Records in London. I did like visiting that shop. The sticker on the sleeve is from some shop filing system, I guess. 

Balearic Mike 3AM Eternal 2

The remixes came out in September, and they’re also really great, with the 3 A.M. Eternal (Blue Danube Orbital) mix an instant favourite. It breaks midway through into the Blue Danube Waltz, and then has lots of horse noises. This uncredited remix is by The Orb, while Jimmy Cauty was still a member.

OK, so I should really be doing Chill Out now, as that was the next release chronologically, but I thought the three 12”s look so nice all together that I’ve decided to skip it, and go back to it if that’s alright with you lot?

The KLF – Last Train To Trancentral (Remix) – KLF Communications 1990

Balearic Mike Trancentral 1

This is a really beautiful record. Remix 1 on the A-side is basically a chunk of Chill Out, edited from the mix, twiddled with a bit, and presented as a single. A gorgeous slice of the overall ambient soundscape, all heart-aching synths, train rolling-stock noises, and sheep Baa-ing. 

Over on the flip we get Remix 2 – an absolutely jaw-dropping electronic trance track. It’s softer, more delicate, with gentle drums and rhythm patterns, and the near classical synth / strings mixing sublime, serene melodies with exciting riffs. There’s something about this record that sounds a bit Christmassy! It also has quite a strong dub sensibility, particularly the latter half, where it’s all echoing drums and percussion. It’s really pushing the boundaries of what house music is, or can be, for 1990. It also has sheep Baa-ing. 

There’s something about the beauty of this trio of 12”s – and the Chill Out and Space albums – that seems really at odds with some of the art terrorist / cynicism in a lot of The KLF /JAMMS work. For all the process over product rhetoric, they didn’t half make some wonderful records.

I love the ‘Other data’ on the record label: Go To Sleep. And the DJ Report Sheet with ‘No Reaction Required’ in bold lettering. These were included with all copies, I think.

Balearic Mike Trancentral 2

They would probably fucking hate me saying this, but this is their masterpiece…

The KLF – Chill Out – KLF Communications 1990

Balearic Mike KLF Chill Out 1

Released in February 1990, I can still remember Damian Harris coming up to me in the Brighton Poly Art Department common room and saying, “I’ve just bagged you a copy of the new KLF LP, it’s amazing!” He wasn’t wrong. 

This album was such a total game-changer for electronic music in the early `90s. We’d had ambient music before, in the 1970s, but what the KLF did here was use emerging technology, that of primitive samplers, to update those records – aiming to replicate the subtle and interesting musical tapestries that were being woven in backrooms and chillout areas at clubs and raves across Britain. Sets by DJs such as Jimmy Cauty and Alex Paterson, or The Orb as they were calling themselves at this point.

Balearic Mike KLF Chill Out 2

Chill Out is an absolutely amazing aural “landscape” of found sounds, synth washes, pinches of pop classics, and sheep. I recall listening to it endlessly when I first bought it. My then girlfriend and I both listened to it all the time. In the days before I owned Technics decks, I had a Dual turntable – a lovely thing that had the advantage of lifting the needle automatically when it got to the end of a record. This meant we could put the LP on and fall asleep to it. Wake up and flip the record over.

Balearic Mike KLF Chill Out 3

The really beautiful thing is that it hasn’t dated at all. Music never caught up and over took this unique artistic statement. No one really tried to copy it. It just stood alone, as some strange monument to what we could do in the name of music if we were bold and brazen enough to plunder anything and everything going. 

Last year the KLF uploaded an updated (?) version – Come Down Dawn – onto streaming sites – sans all the potentially litigious samples. Even in this form, it’s still a thing of beauty, a benchmark for the ambient / chill-out / Café del Mar genres of that sprang up after its release. 

And so to the final record…

Space  – KLF Communications 1990

Balearic Mike Jimmy Cauty Space 1

This isn’t really a KLF record, but was actually due to be The Orb’s debut LP. Unfortunately, Jimmy Cauty and Alex Paterson parted company before that could happen, and Jimmy took the work he’d done with him. After removing all of Alex’s contributions, Jimmy began reworking what he had. According to Cauty, “It was a jam, all done on Oberheim keyboards. Loads of samples were chucked in there as well. I started on Monday morning and by Friday it was all done.” Cauty has called Space “a record for 14-year-old space cadets to go and take acid [to] for the first time.”

Balearic Mike Jimmy Cauty Space 2

Coming out in the summer of 1990, it’s not as attention grabbing in its diversity as Chill Out was – sounding a lot more like the kind of music that those `70s and `80s electronic pioneers might have made, but it’s still mind-bendingly beautiful, and more complex and innovative than first listens might suggest. Thankfully Alex Patterson didn’t sulk about Jimmy taking this with him, and instead went on to make a series of astounding records which expanded on the themes and ideas that Chill Out and Space kicked off.

So that’s alright then!

I bought my copy in Vinyl Exchange, Manchester, shortly after starting work there. It’s a lovely promo that they had in the rack at quite a reasonable price. The press sheet is hilarious and priceless.

Mu-Mu!

For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike. Mike also has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music.

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