Home > Ambient > R.I.P. Pete Namlook : 1960-2012

R.I.P. Pete Namlook : 1960-2012

An awful lost for has wrecked the electronic music community today…

Pete Namlook has passed away. While working today morning, as usual, I was listening to ambient music as I always do each day of my life. I was listening to a promo CD given to me by Peter himself and called « Music for babies » as I ordered a FAX album just 10 days ago and was chating with the German composer just on november the 1st. We agreed to make a quick interview for this blog as he seemed very busy.

I’m listening to track « Mermaids And Angels » from Music for babies, I log in to resident advisor and suddenly see :

« RIP Pete Namlook »…
I couldn’t beleive it.
He was 51 years old.

To me Namlook is one of the best composers of ambient music with the likes of Biosphere, Alex Patterson, Tetsu Inoue, and Brian Eno. In a league of his own, he was also a man that never resented his musical roots and his deep musical idiosyncracies even though ambient is not as trendy as it was in the mid nineties.

We cannot speak about Peter without talking about FAX +49-69/450464, his record label. Pete “Namlook” Kuhlmann was in a whole different continent. A dizzyingly prolific composer who steadily built up an entire industry around his Frankfurt-based Fax label, Namlook’s name was inextricably linked with the post-rave resurgence of ambient music, and many of his solo and collaborative recordings with the likes of Mixmaster Morris, Tetsu Inoue, Klaus Schulze, Bill Laswell, Richie Hawtin, Geir Jenssen, Dr. Atmo, Burhan Ocal, Atom Heart, Jonah Sharp, Charles Uzzell-Edwards, and David Moufang, among many others, number among the most lauded and influential in ambient. Fax helped give shape to ambient’s new school by allowing the artists to freely experiment while making a living from their music. (Fax’s label structure confers the majority of its profits to its artists.) Countless of Fax releases, particularly those dating from 1993 and 1994, are considered classics of contemporary electronic ambient, and while some say the label has suffered a certain degree of repetition in recent years, Fax will always remain one of the most important and influential German electronic music labels of all time.

I didn’t know Peter Kuhlmann. I only exchanged a few e-mails with him.

Yet when my grand-mother died I was listening to Ambient otaku.

When my first girlfriend left me I was listening to Air volume 1 and the female voice to “Je suis triste et seul” (I am sad and lonely) which formed one of the most evocative displays of ambient music ever recorded, and is arguably Namlook’s solo masterpiece.  Air 1 is a set of gusty ambience with the appropriately titled tracks “Wind” and “Breeze,” plus a series of impressionistic female French vocal samples placed over brooding space music.

Pete has been in my bedroom many times.

Yet I never met him but felt extremely close to his music and his artistic endeavors as he was one of those rare guys who never felt compelled to switch to dubstep, trance or minimal just for the sake of being trendy. Who’s gonna carry the torch now ? I doubt anyone can match the quality of the releases on FAX not to mention his own productions and the physical CD’s he has put on the market in a day and age of souless MP3s. He was one of the last soldiers of quality electronic music and to me, and many ambient connoisseurs, FAX will always be remembered as the ambient label par excellence.

Namlook’s legacy is huge. He leaves us 230 albums, tons of collaborations, and many artists have been groomed & nurtured by him. His lost is huge. I fear he cannot be replaced and he will be incredibly missed.

As I write this and feel incredibly sad, I stumbled at random on a website and read this quote :

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

— Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), a Scottish poet


A collaboration with Richie Hawtin in 1994 : A million miles to Earth :

P.S. : Thanks for the memories ”Kool-man”..I’ve shared mine, what’s yours ?

Categories: Ambient
  1. November 16, 2012 at 3:11 am

    On top of a mountain that had an entire view of the city of Athens, and namlook and biosphere’s ‘fires of ork’ comes on. Moments later, I felt like I was floating.

  2. funkyjeff77
    November 16, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Fires of ork, both volume one and two and the collaboration from within with Richie Hawtin are underated…Still 15 and 18 years afterwards they continue to be relevant and highly enjoyable…proof that Namlook had such a vast array of skills!

  3. November 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Three of my favourites…

    The From Within trilogy with Richie Hawtin
    The Ambient Cookbook
    The Retro Rocket with Move D

    And so many more, what a musical legacy 🙂

  4. November 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I am into ambiant music since the mid 1980’s. Back then, I would listen to Eno, Tangerine dream and Art of Noise among others. When I heard Pete Namlook in the early 1990’s, it was a shock! I bought many CD’s and loved most of them. I remember an album called «Seasons greeting/Winter», a very long track that I listened to almost everyday for about a year. There we’re a few copies left in the record store at a discount price… I couldn’t believe that no one wanted to buy this CD… I told one of the employee that it was as good as Brian Eno. I believe I was right. Namlook is among the top ambiant composers I have heard… His death is a tragedy for music.

  5. funkyjeff77
    November 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Quite true guys!!! A legend…

  6. funkyjeff77
    November 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    @ Alain : Did you write the ”Accroc vinyle” ? The girlfriend that dumped me gave it to me 2 years ago !!!!

  7. December 3, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Yes I did write «Accro vinyle» … sorry to hear that she dumped you… very cool blog btw.

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