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RIP

Ambient pioneer Pete Namlook dies at 52

By Ken Taylor
Pete-Namlook

We’re sad to report that German producer Pete Namlook died last week at age 52. The cause of his death is uncertain at this time. The founder of the FAX +49-69/450464 label (commonly known as just FAX), the Frankfurt-based Namlook had been an important figure on the ambient/techno scene since the early ’90s, creating his own atmospheric productions and collaborating with some of electronic music’s biggest players, including Richie Hawtin, Uwe Schmidt, Move D, Jonah Sharp, Tetsu Inoue, and many others.

His daughter Fabia, who manages his website, made the following statement on behalf of her family:

It is with much grief that we announce the passing of Peter Kuhlmann (aka Pete Namlook). We are still shocked and are working on an official announcement that will follow soon to bring clarity to our minds. As word spreads on the internet more and more, we just want to make clear that he died peacefully from as yet unspecified causes on 8th November 2012. We will announce more details as and when they surface.

Clark Warner, Beatport’s Executive Creative Director and also a friend of Namlook’s, offered these words:

My heart goes out to Pete’s family and many friends on hearing this sad news. The emotional and human spirit he put into his very original style always took us to another place, somewhere free, open, new. Ambient electronic music would not have continued to reach and impact a wider audience without his constant evolution.

Pete maneuvered the concept of artistic collaboration further than anyone I can recall in electronic music. His FAX label reached much farther than collectors and fans. The soundtrack created connections and friendships around the world through music, music that will live on in his memory for a very long time.

Beatport Label Manager Peter Wohelski knew Namlook closely over the years as well, and had this to say about him:

A friend, a business colleague, a pioneer, and an inspiration, Pete Namlook and the stable of artists on his FAX +49-69/450464 label was one of my biggest musical inspirations in the early ’90s. Pete’s stark, deep analog chillout provided the soundtrack to some truly formative years, inspiring me to start one of the US’ first ambient scene fanzines in 1992. Soon after I became acquainted with him through mutual friend and Namlook collaborator Jonah Sharp, who’d given him the nod that my little ‘zine was worthy enough to receive promos from the label.

Fuelled by Namlook, The Orb, Future Sound of London, The Irresistible Force ,and many other ambient artists of the time, Florida became a chillout paradise where underground parties and ambient rooms were the norm as an alternative to the funky breaks, UK prog, and trance soundtrack of that time, even playing host to an appearance by the mysterious German icon—recorded for posterity as Namlook X—as part of a benefit show for one of our chillout explorers from Miami who passed suddenly. We spent some time together then and although a little awestruck to be meeting such a hero, I found him to have a sweet, funny, and charming side behind that serious “artiste” exterior, reinforcing that he still put his pants on one leg at a time.

After I closed the fanzine to become Director of A&R at Astralwerks in 1995, the deep chillout scene had started to wane, taken over by the fresh wave of ambient drum & bass and the crush of FAX releases almost weekly had gotten to be almost indistinguishable. We never got to do a project together, but we’d continued to stay in contact on and off over the years and an email from him always elicited that same giddy fanboy reaction.

I’d actually started listening to some of that music again recently—Silence (with Dr. Atmo), Dreamfish (with Mixmaster Morris), From Within (with Richie Hawtin)—and that classic analog electronica just sounded so fresh to me again after days of overcompressed dancefloor-driven promo-listening here at Beatport. Hearing of his passing now, myself and a lot of my old crew are in shock, knowing that there will never be another Pete Namlook. Godspeed, old friend, as you join many of the analog pioneers in that big chillout room in the sky. I’ll be looking forward to what you’ve done when I get up there.