The KLF "The White Room" (KLF Communications, 1991)

The story of The KLF is short, but special. Jimmy Cauty, an A&R, manager and guitarist decided in 1986 it was time for a revolution in his life. He formed a hip hop group called The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu (or the Jams) with Jimmy Cauty, guitarist of a not so successful band he had signed before. At first they mostly produced songs that contained samples from bands like Abba and The Beatles, for which they did not receive permission. So they had to withdraw their first album "1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?)". However, they had no legal issues with their single "Doctorin' the Tardis" from 1988 (released as The Timelords), which featured the "Doctor Who" theme and Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll (Part 2)". The song became a Number 1 in Britain and Drummond and Cauty even performed the song with Glitter on TV.

In 1989 they produced early versions of later hits like "What Time Is Love?" in a more acid house style. Notable next releases were The KLF album "Chill Out", which is seen as a milestone in the ambient music genre, and the Jams' 12" "It's Grim Up North". The hard beats of this record and the addition of some crowd noise made their -so called- stadium house sound that propelled The KLF into the charts and made them the best selling musical act in 1991.

Following some remixes for bands like Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys and another hit ("America: What Time Is Love?"), The KLF announced their retirement in early 1992. They deleted their whole catalogue and were engaged in a number of art projects under the banner of the K-Foundation (for example the burning of one million pounds in cash - allegedly the rest of their KLF income). Musical releases since then have been rare: a song as The One World Orchestra and a 12" as 2K.

WHAT TIME IS LOVE? Interesting start to this album, with the first minute or so of the last song "Justified And Ancient". But then all hell breaks loose... This was their first big hit as The KLF and the introduction of stadium house, which is actually just acid house with some crowd noises and euphoric, synthesizer loaded Anne Clark like themes. Decorate that with a rap, strange Oou-Oou sounds and Mu-Mu chantings and you got yourself the hit everyone was dancing to in 1991. Aggressive and revelling. 9.0

MAKE IT RAIN Female vocals by Maxine Harvey, one of the recurring guest musicians on this album. Very deep bassy beat, but all in all a minimal arrangement compared to the preceding track. A little saxophone and quiet strings here and there, this one obiously serves as a cool down piece between two heavyweight tracks. 6.0

3 A.M. ETERNAL Back to the stadium house anthems... This one is quite similar to "What Time Is Love?", with its crowd noises, hard beats and cryptic, Illuminatus influenced vocals/ raps by different guest performers. There are also various sounds and noises that make these tracks never boring and keep them fresh and unpredictable. Dancefloor filler and in a way even something to sing along. 8.5

CHURCH OF THE KLF / LAST TRAIN TO TRANCENTRAL The first track is very short and more of an intro to the second one, so I rate this as one piece. The album version of "Last Train To Trancentral" is more clubby than the single which was KLF's third big hit. A straight bass drum and hihat ensemble is accompanied by a rolling stock sound. Again, multiple artists share the vocals which makes this music appear as kind of a community effort. There is a sweet synthie theme inbetween the beats, but in the end this is a quite linear, trance-like track with crowd noises from U2 and Doors concerts. 7.5

BUILD A FIRE Odd mix of a country guitar and heavenly synthesizer strings. There are more conventional instrument sounds to a slow beat. Relies on atmosphere and a strange Scottish vocal part. Lovely composition and more of their strange lyrics about themselves, journeys and what have you. 7.5

THE WHITE ROOM Hip hop rhythm as it was typical for this time. The song however does not appear fast, mainly because of the sad, elegiac play of the rest of the arrangement. I think this one could have become a stadium house anthem with a little change of sound here and there, but the second part of the album obviously was dedicated to the calm, chilly side of The KLF. 7.0

NO MORE TEARS Has something of a dream where odd samples flit over misty meadows. There are yet again a one-line chorus and a few quiet strings. The changing rhythm and some piano solos give the whole thing an unstable consistency that seems to be held up only by the persistent bass. Chill out pop where dope meets sheep. 7.5

JUSTIFIED AND ANCIENT Now we get the complete song. This one has been a single hit with new vocals by country legend Tammy Wynette. The arrangement on the album version is very simple in comparison. With a canned beat, some strings, piano and bell sound it focuses on the great vocals. Nice songwriting, too. Maybe in the end a little colorless if you know the final version. 6.5

[Artwork] Nothing spectacular. You got to give them credit for consistently hanging on to only one font for all their artwork. They also placed some of their symbols, which always gave their projects something mysterious (pyramids, sheep...). For a sampling based project you got the usual credits about what is from where plus some information about the additional performers and their equipment (KLF used an Atari computer). 7.0

Conclusion They tried to infiltrate and discoordinate the music industry, like the Justified Ancients of Mummu wanted the Illuminati. In a way they succeeded, climbing the charts with their own record label and when they seemed to become a part of the big players, they went back underground. But what is their music actually worth today? I think most of it has survived the years and only the faster songs have aged a little, mostly because of the beats. There still is a lot of great songwriting on this album, as well as a high frequency of funny and obscure ideas. And the aura and mystique around The KLF and their disappearing are still buried in their music and make "The White Room" a little more than it actually is: a perfect dance/ pop album of its era. Overall Rating: 7.39

June 2007