Sleeping Dogs Lie 81: Pete Namlook

namlook-Vb. Peter Kuhlmann, Germany. Pete “Namlook” Kuhlmann is comfortably the most prolific and arguably the best of the new wave of ambient house artists to originally emerge in the early 90s. Before his immersion in the world of dance music, he had experimented with the sitar and new age jazz. His early solo EPs were shrouded in mystery, the labels distinguished solely by the contact number FAX +49-69/454064 – which later transpired to be the title of the label, inaugurated in 1992. From his base in Frankfurt, Germany, several collaborations emerged every week on 12-inch vinyl, via a stable of co-conspirators who include Dr. Atmo, Craig Peck, DJ Hubee, DJ Brainwave, DJ Criss, Pascal FEOS and Mixmaster Morris (the latter also recording with Namlook as Dreamfish on the FAXWORLD subsidiary). Releases were colour-coded to differentiate between the types of music – yellow for trance, red for clubhouse, orange for breakbeat, black for hardcore, aquamarine for jazz, green for house and blue for ambient – the most popular genre in terms of sales reaction. Each was also recorded in a cycle of eight – one each with each collaborator, always beginning with DJ Criss (as Deltraxx). Only five or six hundred copies of any given release ever emerged, quickly selling out, before the “cycle” was reissued on a compilation CD. Namlook also found time for the Sequential project. Released in the UK via Rising High Records, this allowed him to work with any of his roster, ironically, out of sequence. As if that were not enough, Namlook also recorded ambient “solo” records as Air, Syn or Silence (with Dr. Atmo). These recordings were symptomatic of the “chill-out” factor that hit European clubs in the early 90s. On several of the tracks it took up to 10 minutes for a distinctive beat or rhythm to appear, with Namlook spending time building the atmospheric, neo-filmic musical soundscapes.

Since 1994 FAX and its various sublabels have concentrated on more widely available CD and MP3 releases, albeit with no slowing down of the prolific output. Namlook has also collaborated with such leading electronic artists as Atom Heart, Tetsu Inoue, Jonah Sharp, David Moufang aka Move D, Richie Hawtin (on the From Within series), Klaus Schulze (on The Dark Side Of The Moog series), and Bill Laswell (on The Dark Side Of The Moog, Psychonavigation and Outland series).

Namlook is now perceived to be one of the leading instigators of the “ethno-trance” movement, combining droning electronica with ethnic instrumentation and samples of natural sound. Rather than riding the ambient bandwagon during the early 90s, his overview of the new music’s place and purpose rings true several years later: “I think it’s very important to enhance the notion of a global ambient movement, and to realise that a lot of music which we didn’t expect to be ambient is in fact very, very ambient. When you examine other cultures you discover that what we recognise as a very new movement is in fact incredibly ancient”.

01 Pete Namlook: “Reality” (1:02:18) from “Namlook V” (1994)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 80: Pete Namlook, Tetsu Inoue

shades-of-orion-3This review isn’t quite destined to describe a Namlook album out of thousand others, a Namlook project out of dozen diverse, a Namlook trend/style out of several big ones or even the two masks of Namlook himself (N-the soloist, obscure and obsessive, and N-the collaborator, sharing or splitting his way of doing electronic music, but also always leaving a print that belongs to him and him alone). It’s more of a write which tries to emphasize what could be subtle, special or at least substantial in this individual musical record, what’s its creative energy, what’s good beyond what’s bad…at most compared with the previous albums from this definitive project.

Tetsu Inoue and Pete Namlook (wonder why in this order and not backwards?) have a lot in common (even if it’s sometimes incredible), still also have a way of complementing themselves in style and composition. In what’s “just” the third brush of the entire Shades Of Orion project (let’s not mention the others that aged in the same way) the two artists again choose an old-style of electronic craft & sound, but don’t leave it modest in any way. The epic work here can be reduced to “d & d (dark & deep) ambient electronic”, but that still leaves space to talk about the particular attitude Inoue & Namlook adopted when making it. An attitude that, at first, led to a splendid choice of ideas and balaced instrumentality in preparation for the album itself, but, as it didn’t go all the way till the end, the result was left ambivalent. Shades Of Orion 3 is either oriented towards dark surrounds, either slows down to passive, mellow or ordinary effects.

The album kicks in captivatingly, even in a more original spark than usually, though after a while you realize there’s a bit of carelessness in the handle. Betelgeuzian Ritual (the titles are among the annoying kind, but let’s better stick to music) is effectively a sparkful trance, with dissonant notes, mega-bass rhythms and a paste of meditative atmosphere. The strange sounds could express themselves emotions, though their artificiality is the main ingredient. Stranded On Rigel is more productive and full of electronic suaveness. It’s interestingly close to the sound & shine of the older epic Orion Transfer (from Shades Of Orion 2), but the actual and particular approach makes out a light-ambient and electro-modern experience. Melodies and organic sounds persist initially, but in the second part of this “naive masterpiece”, everything regresses towards soft noises and silent waves. So, out of a first “lounging” mood, you end up listening to technical clusters. Inoucent and Serious (again, cheesy titles for a complex work) is good and thrilling, pulsing the same hollow ambient style as before. Even if it’s a mere symbolic impression, the music here is both of a translucid and heavy range, both of a sharp quality and bit old essence.

This cup of modern, ambiguous electro-therapeutic session is toasted for dark, deep meditations. Of a subversive ambient power and a concept of heavy, crispy if empty sound blazes, Shades Of Orion 3, the last of its kind for now, is yet naturally artistic. Three stars awarded for a work that “sins”, in which the two masters have risked some things, but a work that’s succulent enough as well. (

01 Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue: “Betelgeuzian Ritual” (06:55) from “Shades of Orion 3” (1996)
02 Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue: “Stranded on Rigel 3” (38:26) from “Shades of Orion 3” (1996)
03 Pete Namlook and Tetsu Inoue: “Inouecent and Sirius” (25:38) from “Shades of Orion 3” (1996)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 79: Pete Namlook

Pete Namlook - the definitive ambient collection 2If most artists in contemporary electronica are like islands unto themselves, turning out tracks in relative anonymity, Pete “Namlook” Kuhlmann is a whole continent. A dizzyingly prolific composer who’s steadily built up an entire industry around his Frankfurt-based Fax label, Namlook’s name is 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 Edwards, and David Moufang, among many others, number among the most lauded and influential in new ambient. Although Namlook got his start releasing quasi-new age (as Romantic Warrior) and hard trance (as Sequential, 4Voice, Escape, Deltraxx, and a host of others), he and his label have become synonymous with new ambient since Fax began exclusively releasing the style shortly after the label formed in 1992. 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 Fax releases, particularly those dating from 1993 and 1994, are considered classics of contemporary electronic ambient, and while the label has suffered a certain degree of repetition in recent years, Fax remains one of the most important and influential German electronic music labels. Namlook has been criticized for adopting a quality-over-quantity approach ? his label’s release schedule was up to a CD per week for more than a year, and currently produces 24 per year, many of them Namlook’s own ? but he’s succeeded in attracting a devoted, ravenous following that allows him and his label to continue releasing new music. To date Fax has released more than 250 full-length CDs, dozens of 12-inches, and several compilations ? including the sprawling 4-CD Ambient Cookbook, which remains the best introduction to the label ? and has expanded to included four Fax-related labels and two subsidiary labels (Rather Interesting and Headphone, run by Atom Heart and Higher Intelligence Agency’s Bobby Bird, respectively). Fax releases have been licensed for reissue by R&S, Music Man, Rising High, Instinct and Injection. With distributors on three continents and a small universe of Web sites devoted to reviewing, trading, and collecting Fax titles, the label and its proprietor have long since passed the stage of phenomenon and crossed over to institution. Musically, Namlook draws most recognizably on the synthscapes of artists such as Klaus Schulze and Hans Jochim Roedelius, combing the droning electronics of those artists with, depending on the project or collaborator, ethnic instrumentation (tabla, tambouri, oud), environmental samples (rain, voices, arriving and departing trains, wildlife), sweeping electronic treatments (the bubbly undercurrents of Dreamfish or the drifting synthetic landscapes of 2350 Broadway), and minimal acoustic and electronic rhythms (jungle, electro, techno, and trance). His collaborations tend to outdo his solo recordings, although a few of his solo works are among Fax’s finest. Though hard to find, the two volumes of The Definitive Ambient Collection offer a good introduction to Namlook’s early work. Subsequent compilations of more recent material have appeared at somewhat regular intervals; due to the wide variety of styles pursued by various projects, compilations may be the best place to start. (Sean Cooper, All Music Guide)

01 Pete Namlook: “Trip To Polaris” (8:02) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
02 Pete Namlook: “Duane Sky” (5:43) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
03 Pete Namlook: “Garden Of Dreams” (22:24) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
04 Pete Namlook: “Trip To Mars” (5:30) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
05 Pete Namlook: “70’s Beauty” (2:27) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
06 Pete Namlook: “1st Impression” (4:36) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
07 Pete Namlook: “Vibe” (4:35) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
08 Pete Namlook: “Fishology” (9:25) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)
09 Pete Namlook: “Trip 8” (4:34) from “The Definitive Ambient Collection: Volume 2” (1994)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 78: Pete Namlook, Jonah Sharp

perilous-100Alien Community is Pete Namlook of FAX Records, and Jonah Sharp, of Spacetime Continuum (Sea Biscuit). Together they have produced this double CD of space ambient mind-altering synth, weird effects, and beats. Each disc holds a single track and each of these tracks is longer than an hour in duration. Nevertheless, there is enough evolution over the course of each to maintain interest. The discs are also available separately and, given the choice, I would opt for the first, “Interdimensional Communication”. If you like this release, check out the Jonah Sharp/Bill Laswell collaboration Visitation, and Bill Laswell-related ambient dub releases, such as Axiom Ambient: Lost in the Translation. This is the trippiest ambient i’ve ever heard (alongside the aforementioned…)!!!

01 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 1” (04:59) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
02 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 2” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
03 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 3” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
04 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 4” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
05 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 5” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
06 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 6” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
07 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 7” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
08 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 8” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
09 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 9” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
10 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 10” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
11 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 11” (05:00) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)
12 Pete Namlook & Jonah Sharp: “A Long And Perilous Voyage Part 12” (05:40) from “A Long And Perilous Voyage 1-12” (1994)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 54: Pete Namlook & Bill Laswell

Pete Namlook (born Peter Kuhlmann , in Frankfurt, Germany) is an ambient and electronic-music producer and composer. In 1992, he founded the German record label FAX +49-69/450464, which he oversees. Inspired by the music of Eberhard Weber, Miles Davis, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chopin, Wendy Carlos, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Pink Floyd, he also composes his own albums.

01 Pete Namlook & Bill Laswell: “Outland” (1994)
02 Pete Namlook & Bill Laswell: “Outland 2” (1996)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 52: Pete Namlook & Mixmaster Morris

Swim with the music, let the deep sea ambient float out of your speakers and enjoy the waves in your room. Join Pete and Morris at their trip under the ocean following the path of the Dreamfish.

01 Pete Namlook & Mixmaster Morris: “Dreamfish” (1993)
02 Pete Namlook & Mixmaster Morris: “Dreamfish 2” (1994)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 17: Bill Laswell, Paul Schutze, Pete Namlook, Thomas Köner

I listened to a fair sampling of Laswell-related projects during the mid-1990s (he had waaaay too much product) and this disc was one of the ones I really liked. What we have here is a various artist collection that remains remarkably cohesive on the whole and also offers some stand-out tracks, depending on your cup of tea (a darker one here, to be sure). I was heavily into isolationist sounscapes at the time this was released and most of the artists here contributed something to that ambient sub-genre. Anyway, I lost sight of this CD for some time and stumbled on it again recently and have been enjoying a resurgence of interest in it! It’s a great late-night or early-morning piece to sip your coffee and/or read to.

With Paul Schutze’s Green Evil, we have an 11-minute plus excerpt from his album with the same name (and I believe only one of two tracks here that was featured on other albums). Schutze has a very recognizable sound, and yet – to his credit -plays it ‘very’ minimal here. Pete Namlook’s “Subharmonic Invocation of the Dark Spirits,” nearly 13 minutes of cavernous rumblings through a yawning abyss. A straight-ahead dark ambient piece. Thomas Koner is a well-respected master of cold and sparse ambient. He’s one of those guys who you might initially compare to someENOone else but who has really taken things to a new level and gone his own way with it. His work is typically out-of-print and therefore goes for a premium when you do find it, but here you’ll get a good sample of what he does best on this disk. This track actually has some percussive elements, which are rare for him. Laswell himself provides the longest piece on the set, the 30-minute long “Black Dangers” (despite the title’s name being overly stated, it’s a wonderfully sparse and barren track that remains delightfully consistant for its duration) and plays well with the rest of the CD set. This is a rather solid double CD, “well worth” any ambient fan’s money. If you love the darker domains of ambient, then make room for this disk!

01. Bill Laswell: “Black Dangers” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)
02. Paul Schutze: “Green Evil” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)
03. Pete Namlook: “Subharmonic Invocation Of The Dark Spirits” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)
04. Thomas Köner: “Zone” (from “Divination: Distill”, Sub Meta, 1995)


Sleeping Dogs Lie 07: Pete Namlook

The first two classic volumes of the Air series are also high-water marks for Namlook. Like the Silence series they show some rich ethnic and neo-classical leanings, and they remain particularly effective examples of how he utilises live acoustic instruments in an electronic framework . The delicate, tinkling cymbals and soft tom-tom beats on “Je suis seule et triste ici” from Air I, for instance, are utterly refreshing because Namlook is able to maintain a deep electronic ambient feel while still expanding the style’s instrumental vocabulary. Air II is deeply psychedelic. An eleven-part “trip” subtitled “Travelling Without Moving”, it takes it’s thematic cue Frank Herbert’s cult sci-fi book Dune as well as the David Lynch film of the same name. Herbert’s story posited a strange universe dependant on a life-extending, mind-altering spice drug. On Air II Namlook subtly draws on the story’s themes to create a beautiful, creepy, intoxicating universe of his own. Again he utilizes acoustic instruments: didgeridoo, sighing woodwinds, flamenco guitar, Mid-Eastern flutes, and swooping vocal textures that rise and fall to striking effect. They’re all integrated seamlessly, proving that despite his dancefloor origins he thrives by exploring outside the rigid structures of electronic beats and sequencing.

01. Pete Namlook: “Wind” (from “Air”, Fax, 1993)
02. Pete Namlook: “1st impression” (from “Air”, Fax, 1993)
03. Pete Namlook: “Je Suis Triste Et Seul Ici” (from “Air”, Fax, 1993)
04. Pete Namlook: “Spiritual Invocation” (from “Air”, Fax, 1993)
05. Pete Namlook: “Mystical Appearance” (from “Air”, Fax, 1993)
06. Pete Namlook: “Lost In Passion” (from “Air”, Fax, 1993)
07. Pete Namlook: “Travelling Without Moving – Trip 1” (from “Air II”, Fax, 1994)
08. Pete Namlook: “Travelling Without Moving – Trip 2” (from “Air II”, Fax, 1994)
09. Pete Namlook: “Travelling Without Moving – Trip 3” (from “Air II”, Fax, 1994)
10. Pete Namlook: “Travelling Without Moving – Trip 4” (from “Air II”, Fax, 1994)
11. Pete Namlook: “Travelling Without Moving – Trip 5” (from “Air II”, Fax, 1994)