People loved Fax +49-69/450464 – to call Fax a cult record label really doesn’t do justice to the passion. It’s one of the imprints that you most likely discovered by chance rather than through marketing, and if you slip in on just the right entry point, you slide into a catalog bursting with unique and unworldly music waiting to be discovered.

And while there was probably never a moment when this re-issue of Zenith’s self-titled record by Psychonavigation wouldn’t have been welcomed, it now seems particularly timely. Fax owner Pete Namlook died of a heart attack four years ago; one half of Zenith, Tetsu Inoue, has been “missing” for many years now. It hasn’t made Unsolved Mysteries but his unexplained disappearance or at least total, unyielding silence has puzzled friends and colleagues as well as fans who continue to find so much wonder within Fax’s sprawling but now permanently fenced-in confines.

Emails to his address have gone unanswered, snail-mail to 2350 Broadway was unsuccessful (although curiously not ‘returned to sender’), and I’ve even heard from label owners this last year wishing to contact him to resolve pending business issues, as they were also unsuccessful in contacting him. I have heard from some of his collaborators who have worked with him on and off for twenty years who are also unable to reach him. At this point, two possibilities come to mind:

(1) He’s being reclusive
(2) He’s dead

To bring us back to those breathing times, Zenith was released in 1994, the same year as Tetsu Inoue’s minimalist masterpiece Ambiant Otaku and at a time when Namlook & Friends were churning out an incredible quantity of ambient records. Fax always seemed to be one of the independent labels that should have run by subscription, as the process of buying their records always felt more like “discovery” than “commerce.”

Zenith is florid, flourishing, and owing to the influence of Vivanco conjures up melodies and rhythms that coalesce to form fragments of dancefloor tracks and songs out of the ether. “Sacred Mirror” imparts a feeling of sinister, creeping dread before opening up into a rousing, capturing dance – like the feeling of walking through the bombed out neighborhoods of a ’90s New York to find the warmest hearth behind corrugated steel doors. For some people they’ll open the door and see some old friends that haven’t aged a day, and that makes this reissue a bit sad as well as wonderful. For others, this is all new – the doors, the hearth and the people around it – and only a bit disappointing to know the end of the story when you’re just learning the beginning.

 

Support! This was originally published in 5 Magazine Issue 137 featuring Demuir, Igor Jadranin, Apollo Music Group with DJ Heather, Lil’Mark and Dan X, a DJ’s guide to music streaming and more. Support Real House Music and become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music for just $1 an issue!

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  • Solar Culture

    This is a bootleg release, Psychonavigation Records do not have the rights to release it, it’s a sick travesty of justice and I find it unbelievable that you’ve reviewed it and gave it air. Downey is a graverobber.

    • terrymatthew

      You find that unbelievable? I get a thousand records a month, I find that investigating the rights management of every one of them leaves very little time for, you know, listening.

      I saw that Carlos Vivanco had something to do with it – do you have anything to the contrary? I would be interested to know.

      https://www.discogs.com/master/249916-Zenith/reviews#c621696

      • Solar Culture

        There’s lots of threads on discogs about this. Psychonavigation have been releasing former FAX releases without legal or moral consent.

        • terrymatthew

          Mr. Vivanco tweeted this page today, I assume that’s who he’s working with.

  • accordion player

    Disgusting you run an article like this bigging up the release on Psychonavigation which as mentioned below is nothing more than a bootleg.You should be ashamed of the fact you have published such drivel

    • terrymatthew

      How can something be a bootleg when one of the creators has allegedly signed off on it? I would be interested to know more information if you have it.

      • accordion player

        This release is already copyrighted by FAX Records and the main artist in the release, Tetsu Inoue has been missing for some years (presumed killed in a tsunami by many people) and therefore it was impossible for Keith Downey to get the rights or the masters to this release.
        As you will be aware, a label must own their own copy of the masters for a contract to be valid. However, there is no way Keith Downey can have received the masters for this release because of Tetsu’s disappearance and it is the belief of many, that he has simply ripped the wav files from the FAX CD and is using these as the masters, this is illegal.
        Mr Downey also demands a 50% share of the publishing rights on his albums and the music on this CD is already published elsewhere and as such, Mr Downey is breaking the law by funnelling publishing money to his label that should be going to Tetsu’s publishers.
        Furthermore, I am sure you are also aware that a copyright lasts for 75 years and as Tetsu is missing and is unable to sign any contract that allows Keith Downey the rights to release his intellectual copyright, it means that the release is no more than an illegal bootleg.
        FAX Records or the descendents of the FAX Records owner will now be in control of the mechanical copyright and Tetsu or Tetsu’s relations will be in control of his intellectual copyright. Mr Downey has absolutely no right whatsoever to claim that he owns the copyright on this release.
        Not only does he not have a legitimate copy of the masters, nor a signed contract transferring rights to him from Tetsu Inoue, but he has absolutely no moral right whatsoever to be releasing this music.
        Quite simply, there is no consent granted from any source for this release and it amounts to nothing less than piracy…

      • accordion player

        i apologise for my above comments terry…keith downey makes my blood boil

  • accordion player

    This release is already copyrighted by FAX Records and the main artist in the release, Tetsu Inoue has been missing for some years (presumed killed in a tsunami by many people) and therefore it was impossible for Keith Downey to get the rights or the masters to this release.
    As you will be aware, a label must own their own copy of the masters for a contract to be valid. However, there is no way Keith Downey can have received the masters for this release because of Tetsu’s disappearance and it is the belief of many, that he has simply ripped the wav files from the FAX CD and is using these as the masters, this is illegal.
    Mr Downey also demands a 50% share of the publishing rights on his albums and the music on this CD is already published elsewhere and as such, Mr Downey is breaking the law by funnelling publishing money to his label that should be going to Tetsu’s publishers.
    Furthermore, I am sure you are also aware that a copyright lasts for 75 years and as Tetsu is missing and is unable to sign any contract that allows Keith Downey the rights to release his intellectual copyright, it means that the release is no more than an illegal bootleg.
    FAX Records or the descendents of the FAX Records owner will now be in control of the mechanical copyright and Tetsu or Tetsu’s relations will be in control of his intellectual copyright. Mr Downey has absolutely no right whatsoever to claim that he owns the copyright on this release.
    Not only does he not have a legitimate copy of the masters, nor a signed contract transferring rights to him from Tetsu Inoue, but he has absolutely no moral right whatsoever to be releasing this music.
    Quite simply, there is no consent granted from any source for this release and it amounts to nothing less than piracy.

    • terrymatthew

      I’ve written about shitty bootleggers multiple times, for instance: http://5chicago.com/tracks/new-releases/italo-wont-die/

      But I know specifically of labels which reissued records without having masters (nearly all of the authorized Spencer Kincy material that’s been issued in the last 5 years to start with). It’s not that uncommon in dance music to reissue records without having obtained the masters, even when they’re relatively not that old. People weren’t that careful. They never thought they’d need them. Their ex-wives threw them out. Etc.

      I’m not sure why Carlos Vivanco’s seeming support of this is not being addressed. You make statements like “no consent granted from any source for this release…” and there seems to be some contradiction there. I have no idea if Carlos controls the rights. His consent doesn’t seem that mysterious, though.

      I have no relationship whatsoever to Psychonavigation. They send us their new records and (if you can’t tell by looking around) we hardly ever write about them because it’s not exactly in the neighborhood of what we do. In fact, this was the first one in probably four or five years. I’m not a partisan of anyone. I saw something cool in the slush pile of submissions, thought I’d write about it for anyone’s edification and am apparently disgusting, shameful, etc.

  • Solar Culture

    You’re not disgusting or shameful. Keith Downey is, he’s the conman behind it all. Regarding the masters, he ripped the wavs from a FAX CD and that’s illegal. He has no rights ro release any FAX music and other FAX artists are very unhappy about the situation with psychonavigation. We were only telling you, not condemning you.

    • terrymatthew

      I appreciate that, and I am grateful for the information you’ve provided.

      I got in touch with Carlos. He told me that he signed the contract for the reissue. I don’t know if that was the only contract signed, or what it entailed, or if he was entitled to sign it. I also don’t know that he wasn’t entitled to sign it. I don’t know the answers but it seems to me the path of least resistance to finding out would be via Namlook’s estate. Which would probably answer a great many questions. I presume if it were that easy, though, it would have been done?

      I’m hesitant to mention this next part, but I’ve been in your position before. A producer who had suffered many mental health problems resurfaced and his records began to be reissued. They were (and are) ugly, sloppy affairs: names misspelled, tracks arranged out of order, vinyl rips, etc. It’s pretty well known that a court order on mental competence is enough to invalidate any contract. But who was going to contest this?

      We tried for awhile, and while we threw thunderbolts and rained moral outrage, nothing changed. More records came out with stock art sleeves. People ate them up regardless. Many of the people who “supported” what we thought was the moral position really were interested, primarily, in preserving the value of their old records. I’m not explaining this very well but Luke Solomon did so here:

      http://lukesolomon.com/?p=1143

      Every year I draft an article about this but put it aside and don’t answer emails about it, either. It’s a depressing battle to try to preserve an artist’s legacy in an industry exclusively preoccupied by products.

  • keith downey

    Craig Murphy aka Solar Culture and possibly ‘accordion player’ will you please get a life! It’s all above board as clearly proven and as stated by Terry, Carlos and the label have a signed contract in place. It’s becoming tiresome now honestly.