Fantastic Fest Review: Who Killed the KLF ?: Biography of the Burning Band Behind the Music – Screens

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Who killed the KLF?

Who killed the KLF? The KLF. They were the only ones who could do the job. And it had to be done.

What is a KLF? A Dada nightmare in disguise as an ambient, chart-topping house duo that recorded with country queen Tammy Wynette, Extreme Noise Terror ear crushers, and a 1968 Ford Galaxie called the Ford Timelord. The KLF (aka the JAMS aka the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu aka the Timelords aka the K Foundation aka 2K aka K2 Plant Hire Ltd) topped the European singles charts between 1987 and 1992. Former A&R music man Bill Drummond (King Boy D) and guitarist Jimmy Cauty (Rockman Rock) wanted to burn down the music industry, or rebuild it to his purest instincts, or maybe do both. Their weapon? A sample-driven dance group that both reignited and strangled rave culture, sprayed it with agit-prop and artistic terrorism, and lit it with party sparks.

The KLF was undeniably a cornerstone of the British rave scene, but they were also a critique of Blair-era culture, of commercialism, of the commodification of art, of celebrity status. Before the KLF, Cauty was perhaps half the kings of the descent, the Orb, and roamed the grebo rockers Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction (oddly enough, the facts have been passed here in favor of his cellophane pop act. aborted Brilliant), but his most famous work was closer to the provocative comedy of Chris Morris, or the rock art of Manic Street Preachers. No surprise, since they were all born out of frustration with a celebrity system that sanitized everything it touched.

Maybe that’s why their story attracted Chris Atkins, whose 2009 documentary Star suckers gutted the macabre and unethical reality of tabloid journalism. Who killed the KLF? digs into the history of a group that didn’t break the rules in the conventional way, but innovated by self-destructing – and enriched themselves by doing so. So rich that they burned a million pounds on a Scottish island (or did they? Yes, yes, they did) for reasons they didn’t explain at the time. Or rather, they did, but no one wanted to listen to it. These are the kinds of contradictions that Atkins does a better job of than most could ever handle by chaining together with each other.

Still, it’s still a challenge, because what Cauty and Drummond were trying to achieve was so tinged with fury and despair that it’s still hard to explain. When Alan Moore is the most cohesive and incisive voice on the Discordian roots of a pop group, you know you are in a fascinating situation.

Atkins doesn’t try to create a simple thematic narrative, because what the KLF has done isn’t straightforward. Instead, it focuses on the linear path, as that’s what keeps the story under some control, even as the entity known as KLF was throwing money at deranged videos and messes. manic stunts as fast as they won it. This is how he manages to get a glimpse of Cauty and Drummond’s complicated relationship with the group, which has increasingly become an independent body even though they were the only members, managers, everything.

Of course, in the midst of that, Atkins finds room for KLF’s heart-wrenching discography (the same catalog they’ve taken down for 29 years), and no one can deny that “3 AM Eternal” and “What Time is Love ? ” are still difficult pumping soil loads. Again, had they taken a more thematic approach, there could have been more dissection of these bizarre internal tensions within their music. The first track “The Queen and I” sampled ABBA so much that it made Dangermouse The gray album sound like a melody intoned by a man who looks twice both ways before crossing the road: at the same time everything the KLF did sounded fresh, the brilliant silliness of “It’s Grim Up North Part 1” harsher and more dancing than any supposed banger card. Perhaps a musicologist could dissect these elements, but Curtis keeps an eye on men and their actions, not on rhythms.

It’s the same with the mythology of the KLF, a jumble of pyramids, coats, trains, Vikings, constant rain and torn and torn pages from an annotated copy of The Illuminatus! trilogy. Explaining it wouldn’t be worth anything, when get it That is what matters.

Ultimately, Who killed the KLF? is not about the obvious answer (Cauty and Drummond, guilty on all counts) but about why they had to die and how they didn’t really die. Curtis unveils the KLF as a divine mystery that can only be told through obscuration.


Who killed the KLF?

World premiere

Saturday, September 25, 2:50 p.m. at Alamo South Lamar.

Available on FF @ HOME Sept.-Oct. 11.

Fantastic Fest 2021, September 23-30. Tickets and information on fantasticfest.com. Follow all of our coverage at austinchronicle.com/fantasticfest.

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