Chill Out - 88-95


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:


Dude yes! Loving your rave culture archivist historian digs, for me not alot of experiences personally as the chill out room was gone before my time. However I’ll do my best to ask some OGs what they made of it all, what the sound and vibe was, and if they think it’ll ever come back. My closest experience would be late 2000s campout geodesic domes that served as the chill out zone way down the hill from the heavy bass zones…lots of atmospheric stuff like this track, will always remind me of being stratospherically high on L zoooming in inner space…


Really think more clubs need quiet rooms where people can just lounge around. I remember once going to a Four Tet set in a packed room in Brooklyn and there being nowhere to sit once you’re sick of dancing. A smart club will have a second room for that purpose, as well as for making conversation. I know it’s the club and you don’t really go for that, but I still think it’s important.


Yeah, I’ve had great times in chill out rooms (or at least the 2000s era version of them) in warehouse raves in SF/LA, but never in clubs…closest would be a hiphop/beat scene room where they could still pull in lots of money from the bar. Thing is nobody makes money off a buncha kids cuddle puddling on the floor, having meaningful connections and intelligent conversation. The chill out room for me was always the place to go when things got a bit too intense and you needed to mellow out for a bit, or maybe you met a guy/girl and wanted to chat/massage/whatever a bit more…best part of it is that the space is undefined, autonomous, amorphous, changing but in an inverse way to the dancefloor…without intensity, energy…chill out rooms are the yin to the rave’s yang.


and i really hope they start showing up more often…some traumprinz vibes in a pillowy shag carpet lined juice bar / mate / herbal elixir chill out room, anyone?! make it happen @euth :wink: ill lock n load some sets…


I remember there was a chill out at Studio Spaces (its now known as E1) & this was a few years ago. I enjoyed it but they do need bring the chill out room back!


Never knew about “the chill out room” but it does make a lot of sense. Why aren’t they more popular now! I guess it’s like @nickecks said, it doesn’t pull as much money. I personally don’t buy many drinks at clubs as it is, so they wouldn’t be making any less money from me.


In our little scene you’ve started seeing tea rooms off the side (mainly warehouse/outdoor type venues) of the main room, along with interactive video game type visuals generators and places for chilling. But not usually a separate sound system, you’re just hearing the main room. If you’re dealing with a group of people who like drugs, you learn that these kind of places are a necessity to create the right vibe.

I’m also old enough to remember actual chill out rooms where there would be a dj spinning ambient records. Everything from Tangerine Dream to Pete Namlook, etc. I actually met a lot of my current crew doing live performances at chill tents for psytrance parties. But really, that was more a phenomena of the 90’s-early 2000’s. As the 2010’s progressed everything got a lot more attuned to absolute necessity. Not to mention the brutal assault on the west coasts DIY venues after the Ghost Ship tragedy. All the kinds of spaces available for this kind of freedom have been systematically squeezed out of being allowed to exist in a way that is sustainably financially viable.


Most of the clubs I’ve been to in Berlin have chill out rooms. Once you get used to having that, I started hating places that don’t offer it. It’s a good place to rest, relax, talk to people and what not. It will make you stay at the club much longer because you can rest and then go back to dancing.

Though I haven’t seen a chill out spot with music. That would of course be also nice.


When I started going to raves (late 90’s in Australia) you would pretty regularly find chill out rooms and they were GREAT, but they very quickly disappeared for the most part by the early 00’s. I always made a point to have one when I could when I started doing my own parties because I reckon people 100% need them for many reasons.

You need spaces like that at parties where people can actually socialise and not just be off chops on the floor. It’s a solid way to build a community around this culture, around this music.

Also if someone is having a bad night because something they’ve taken isn’t agreeing with them you have a space where they can go and hopefully feel safe and calm and - hopefully - still have a good time.

It’s a rave OH&S thing ha ha ha


Sorry to dig up an old thread here, but I’m a huge fan of this style of music, and lately I’ve been listening to the Pablo’s Eye re-releases on repeat and feel the need to share the love. The first two comps are available now, and the last one comes later this month. Absolute bliss for anyone into this style of music!


Wow thank you so much for sharing. Absolutely loving this.


Great article. It’s actually NOT on Red Bull anymore sadly BUT it’s over here now

Here’s all our sets / guides for Downtempo and with a load of other articles attached to each. I’ll make sure both of these articles are attached to ours as they are great. :grin: