Do you know what it means to be Justified and Ancient? Have you ever been to the White Room? But most importantly, What. Time. Is. Love? The KLF, also known as The Timelords and/or The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (or JAMs), asked these questions, and in so doing became the most subversive (and brilliant) musical duo to ever grace the UK, or anywhere. Mashups? They made a #1 hit out of one in 1986, then wrote the book on how to repeat that success. Genre creation? Their Pure Trance series of releases helped create acid house. Artistic subversion? How about guerilla advertising, street art, and the most ridiculous performances possible? Good hell, were it not for them, Banksy would have never left Bristol, and M.I.A. would never have gotten married to the son of a music label exec and used some of his money to bankroll a music video about murdering gingers.
There is a reason they never get much noise out here, though: in 1992, after pulling off their final act (a performance at The Brits that included firing machine gun blanks into the crowd), they departed the industry, and pulled their second-most subversive act: deleting their entire back catalog*. (Their most subversive act was burning 1 million pounds sterling (equivalent to $3 million today)… and filming the act.) This meant that getting their albums and singles, including Chill Out and The White Room, would be nigh-impossible to get, at least legally, and hard to get otherwise. With the advent of the Internet, the process became simpler, but access remained an issue. And with the advent of streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify, this issue became emphasized, since the draw of the latter services meant that some people were not as willing to download albums or songs anymore on BitTorrent.
So, it was a surprise to many that the entire collection of KLF Communications, the label The KLF created for their music, had been put up on the UK versions of iTunes, Spotify, and even Amazon Music Store yesterday. Those who live across the pond from this somewhat subversive publication (sponsored by American Family Insurance) were able to purchase and/or listen to these brilliant pieces freely. Things got weird, though, when with them came the appearance of unofficial albums such as The Lost Sounds of Mu and the OST to their unfinished film, The White Room. What would drive the duo to not only undelete their catalog, but also release bootleg albums that were not supposed to see the light of day? Some Discordian trick? A subversive attempt to make a second comeback?
Turns out the motives were more sinister: The KLF did not, in fact, undelete their catalog. A bootlegger managed to get into the good graces of these distributors and manipulate them into posting them online without the consent of The KLF. A Twitter-based investigation revealed the conspiracy, and subsequently the record collection has been re-deleted. It remains uncertain how a bootlegger managed to get these releases out there, other than perhaps with support from the Illuminati.
* The exception to this deletion was the Arista release of The White Room album, which The KLF had no control over. This album is also the lone release available to us Yanks, and has been available on iTunes for who knows how long.
• The KLF: http://www.libraryofmu.org