Saturday 2 January 2021

Now, there's a name I haven't heard in a long time...

2021 wasted no time in bringing out the surprises, with The KLF of all bands appearing on streaming services with a new single collection, the first 'new' music from them since 1992.

If you're unfamiliar with The KLF, they're quite the characters to put it mildly, more than I can really do justice here but I'm going to at least try to introduce them a little. First there's their many aliases (the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, the JAMs and the Timelords to name a few), the cryptic arty stunts they'd do - 'All You Need Is Love' extremely illegally sampling The Beatles, the song itself concerning the UK Media's coverage of the AIDS epidemic (with the album cover itself being a photo of a billbaord they'd graffiti'd over of Homophobe and general piece of shit James Anderton) to their more infamous ones like the performance art piece K Foundation Burn a Million Quid, which I'm sure you can guess what that entails.

And this has me curious. First, a bit more history, they performed at the BRIT Awards in 1992 with a band called Extreme Noise Terror, where they literally fired an M16 into the audience (With blanks, obviously but holy shit you would not be able to pull that stunt today) and if that wasn't enough they also snuck out afterwards and dumped a dead sheep at the entrance of the afterparty with a sign saying "I died for you – bon appetit".

But that's getting off track, the key point is at the end of that performance, there was an announcement that, quote, "The KLF have now left the music business", which given their track record for taking the piss wasn't taken entirely seriously at first but they followed through on it, and about a week after on the 14th of May 1992, they said:

We have been following a wild and wounded, glum and glorious, shit but shining path these past five years. The last two of which has [sic] led us up onto the commercial high ground – we are at a point where the path is about to take a sharp turn from these sunny uplands down into a netherworld of we know not what. For the foreseeable future there will be no further record releases from The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords, The KLF and any other past, present and future name attached to our activities. As of now all our past releases are deleted .... If we meet further along be prepared ... our disguise may be complete.

So my question would be after 'deleting' their past releases where's the source for this new compilation, it can't be the original masters in that case can it? Or did 'deleting' just mean the stock of records at the time? But anyway, that's getting off track too, now the context is out of the way let's get into it. I've got a real love for The KLF, their arty side was a big part of my dissertation on Piracy in art, linking them with John Oswald's plunderphonics as a gateway for me to write about the sampling debate, and if there was ever a time for them to return, now is pretty fitting. They also released one of my favourite ambient/concept albums of all time in Chill Out which unfortunately wasn't part of the compilation just dropped but I highly recommend checking out. Here's my favourite track from it - Madrugada Eterna, in all it's pedal steel glory. The album itself is themed around a road trip on the Gulf Coast of the USA, starting in Texas and ending in Louisiana - featuring samples Elvis and Tuvan Throat Singing among others along the way. Seek out the whole album and listen to it in order for the best experience!

And finally, just a rundown of the videos they put out around the same time. They're not new or anything, but I do always like it when these super old music videos get put out in decent quality. Last Train To Trancentral is a great tune - this poppier one isn't my favourite mix of it but it still has it's charm, those trancy bits as the name implies are as lovely as ever.

Quite a far cry from Madrugada Eterna wasn't it? Decidedly early 90's in it's execution too. No doubt intentional, though The KLF went all in on the pop front in their later years as referenced in the above quote, they did it in a really cynical way - even going as far as to write "The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way)", a case study on them doing just that after their 1988 single "Doctorin' the Tardis" as The Timelords did just that. You can hear the formula especially on tracks like "What Time Is Love". Even with the cynicism though it's a quality slice of 90's dance, surprisingly powerful in parts and drenched in 303, all topped off with MC breakdowns as was fashionable at the time.

Topping it off we have the real wildcard. Justified And Ancient featuring Tammy Wynette of all artists on the vocal. Another example of something you couldn't get away with today, releasing a video and lyrics like this in 2021 would have your conspiracy theorist uncle absolutely frothing at the mouth about communist satanists or the like. Despite how different it is from the rest of this post, it's actually a very good summary of The KLF: Odd for sure, Unique for definite, I don't know many tracks that sample what sounds like a level crossing bell and an absolutely massive ear-worm.

Whatever they have planned is sure to be pretty special. Or who knows, maybe this is another piss take of the industry and the modern hype train and they'll slink back off into the sunset. Either way, it's good to have an official version of these videos out there and have some of The KLF's works more readily available on streaming to boot.

And as always, Stay safe and enjoy the music.


No comments: