Fax Records

The story of the new-school ambient label Fax Records is probably better told through the solo and collaborative albums of its late founder Pete Namlook (1960-2012) rather than through label compilation albums. Nonetheless, some Fax compilations are magnificent on their own terms and highly recommended.

label:
Fax Records

country of origin:
Germany

style(s):
Ambient, chillout, ethno ambient, ambient techno/trance/dub, electronica, avant-garde

decades active:
90's - 10's

essential compilations:

  • Fax Compilation 1 (1994, Fax/Instinct Records)
  • Fax Compilation 2 (1995, Fax/Instinct Records)
  • The Ambient Cookbook (1995, Fax Records)
  • Genetic Drift (1996, Fax Records)
  • The Ambient Cookbook II (2002, Fax Records)

Reviewed by Mike G

The story of the new-school ambient label Fax Records is probably better told through the solo and collaborative albums of its founder and greatest artistĀ Pete Namlook (1960-2012) rather than through label compilation albums. Not since Brian Eno has single musician done so much to promote his idea of ambient music - in this case, using a much broader definition than Eno - both through his own music and the impressive array of talent he signed to the label during its 20 year lifespan.

Nonetheless, some Fax compilations are magnificent on their own terms and recommended. The label's peak creative years were the 1990's and the above albums are good summaries of Fax's output from that period. Old analogue synth sounds meld with a variety of light techno beats, industrial percussion and/or live instruments in fresh and evocative ways. Some tracks remain completely beatless, others pulse with gentle rhythm; some are cosmic and beautiful, some dignified and classical, others shadowy and ominous. The music collected here remains a benchmark for electronic and electro-acoustic chillout music well into the new century.

The 2-CD sets Fax Compilation 1 (1994) and Fax Compilation 2 (1995) are among a select few comps that were at one point licensed by ambient championĀ Instinct Records in North America, which means they're more numerous and easier find to find than the other comps listed above which are all limited editions. These two double albums include most of tracks from the 4CD compilation The Ambient Cookbook (1995), which has the curious addition of some recipes from Pete Namlook's kitchen in the accompanying booklet. Genetic Drift (1996) is another double album set collecting more tracks from the same period.

The 4-CD Ambient Cookbook II (2002) is also a treasure, albeit a very different one to the first volume. It doesn't so much as pick up where the first one left off, rather it re-imagines the label's first ten years with a seamless mixed blend. Some tracks are left intact, some are edited, while others are extensively overlaid on top of each other to create something new. Its much more of a mixed DJ creation than the first volume and a marvelous alternative document of the label's history to that point.

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