A groundbreaking and notorious UK-based electronica band, active from 1987 to 1992. The band was founded by multi-instrumentalist, band manager, and record company executive (with anarchist tendencies) Bill Drummond. At the time, Drummond was managing a band called Brilliant, one of whose members was Jimmy Cauty. Drummond had taken an interest in the sample-heavy house tracks he was hearing in the clubs in London, and Cauty was intimately familiar with digital sampler technology. The two also shared an interest in the Illuminatus novels.
The two began releasing electronica tracks under the name Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. The tracks used obvious samples from popular artists such as Whitney Houston, prompting a blizzard of lawsuit threats; however, the British music press reacted very favorably. Most of the sampling was done iinitially with a rather kludgey Apple II setup that Cauty had built; later they replaced this with an Akai sampler and an Atari computer to do sequencing. As the band turned more towards an acid house and trance based sound, they decided to rebadge themselves as The KLF, and named their independent record label KLF Communications. (It was rumored at the time that KLF stood for Kopyright Liberation Front, although Drummond has since denied this.) The KLF's discography and performance/remix history is complex (see the Wikipedia entry for details), but they released two albums. The White Room introduced the band's "stadium house" style, with elements of Big Beat and trance, and contained two tracks that become hits in various mixes: "3 AM Eternal" and "What Time is Love?" Both tracks are upbeat pop-ish dance tracks, with catchy melodies and a shameless amount of self-promotion in the lyrics of the vocal versions. A real curiousity was the track "Justified and Ancient", for which the band intended to sample and chop vocals from country singer Tammy Wynette, but before doing that, they bizarrely contacted Wynette's management and asked if she would agree to actually sing on the track. Even more bizarrely, Wynette agreed, and the result was another European hit. They also released, as The Timelords, the novelty dance track "Doctorin' the Tardis", complete with a video using clips from the Dr. Who sci-fi television show.
The two also had an interest in ambient music, and they released a pioneering effort in that direction, Chill Out, in 1990. This was less sample-based and contained more tracks performed on analog synths and other instruments. In addition, Cauty started a side project with Alex Paterson, which evolved into The Orb. Unfortunately their collaboration didn't last long, and Cauty took some tracks that they had worked on, and after removing Paterson's contributions, released them under the name of Space.
The KLF were notorious for their publicity stunts, which became more bizarre as time went on. In 1992, they performed a thrash-metal version of "3 AM Eternal" at the BRIT Awards (Great Britian's equivalent of the Grammys), ending with a PA announcement stating "The KLF have left the music business". They released no more albums or tracks, and in May KLF Communications deleted their entire back catalog. They performed what may have been the ultimate publicity stunt in 1994 when they burned one million pounds in British currency, and filmed the event.
Since then, Drummond and Cauty have focused on writing and various forms of performance art, re-emerging very rarely to release a new track here and there. Their music performances have generally been confined to live performance and arranging.