Chillout
Future Music|April 2021
Lie down on a bean bag, close your eyes and relax as we explore the nebulous world of chillout music

Some might argue that chillout isn’t so much a style of music as a state of mind. The concept originated in the late ’80s, as the rave scene took hold in Britain and acid house ruled clubs. With tempos rising and recreational pharmaceuticals growing ever stronger, clubbers found themselves seeking a little light relief from the madness. As pioneering ambient DJ Mixmaster Morris put it, it was “time to lie down and be counted”.

In a world of opaque genre names, the origin of chillout couldn’t be much more obvious. The chillout rooms which began to appear in clubs and raves were just that: places to chill out, relax for a while, drink some water, get your head together and revive yourself. The first of its kind may have been The White Room at London’s Heaven club, where Paul Oakenfold booked DJs to play the second room of his Land of Oz nights, including the KLF’s Jimmy Cauty, The Orb’s Alex Paterson and Killing Joke bassist Youth spinning a mix of laidback and relaxing tracks.

Regular readers of this column will have spotted by this point that there’s a clear overlap with ambient house, the easygoing but still club-focused offshoot of experimental ambient music. The link was made even more concrete by the record which really defined the style: The KLF’s 1990 album Chill Out was a groundbreaking piece of work, stitching samples and snippets from an eclectic range of sources to create a 45-minute continuous piece. An audio collage of everything from Elvis to the Tuvan throat singing of Siberia, the album tells the story of an imaginary night-time journey from Texas to Louisiana.

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