I’ve always known that back in the day, raves had Chill Out rooms for ravers to take a break from the blistering hardcore / jungle / techno in the main room. I never thought much more about it, but a couple weeks ago I got curious about what that scene was like so I started digging around.
I found a couple articles that gave me a great jump on understanding what that scene was about. First this 2016 RBMA feature on “ambient house” gives a great overview of its major proponents, and those that it inspired, including a wonderful interactive tree diagram.
This piece from A Strangely Isolated Place has lots of great information too, though it includes stuff from before and after the scene I’m talking about:
A rough summary from memory - at the height of their popularity (but before they burned a million quid) the KLF made an experimental record which became the rubric for the chillout scene, and an inspiration for The Orb’s DJ sets in the VIP room of Paul Oakenfold’s weekly event mondays in London. Under orders from Paul to keep people from dancing in the VIP, The Orb used four turntables, 2 cassette decks and a sampler to work out the basis for an entire movement. That movement went on to inspire the likes of Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, Boards of Canada, Coldcut, DJ Food, and scores of others.
For a long time I thought I knew what this music would sound like. I imagined the Mo’ Wax sound, the IDM sound, a hint of the mellower big beat stuff, but in fact the scene that inspired all of that produced music that was much gentler, more experimental, and more playful than what followed. It seems the Chill Out scene was a perfect mirror for the contemporaneous early trance movement (i call it trance at least) which I talk about a bit here ( Trance Appreciation ). Earnest, experimental, delicate music pushing the boundaries of electronic psychedelia.
What do you remember about this scene? Any parts of the story way off, or omitted? Hungry to find out whatever I can about this moment in time.
I’m gathering the songs I find in this playlist: