Photo: Mareen Jedro (Mareena)
You would expect someone who has been busy to bring quiet and introspective music to the forefront in Berlin’s vibrant club scene to enjoy some downtime, but also Unrush founder Mareena’s feet are itching for a dance. The Tresor resident’s mix for the Groove podcast, while full of lush and gentle synthesised sounds, is dedicated to slick and banging electro tracks, inspired to a year that went by too fast and dedicated to a friend who celebrates her birthday today.
First off, how have you been doing this past year?
In the first quarter of 2020, I played some very cool DJ gigs in my home base Tresor, at the very emotional Griessmuehle closing, Golzheim, Gare Porto, Ukraine… Furthermore, we prepared the SuperBooth20 festival where I’m taking care of the creative programming and production work. In between, I was making music as much as my time let me. And I thought: “Damn, that’s gonna be a hell of a busy year…” Well, then life said: “Haha, you and your cute plans!” Mid-March, I couldn’t really understand what was going on, and thought it would be over soon until I realised that this year is probably cancelled for all performing artists. The moment I started to get comfortable within the uncomfortable, I have had an intense relationship with myself and started to think how I can make my time as pleasant as possible and develop myself. Digging and making music, building and playing with my modular synth, optimising the studio took up the biggest chunk of my time, followed by sleep, hanging out with family and friends and lots of sports in between. Also I finally found a great distribution for Unrush, which is Morr Music. In summer, I was lucky to play at a few beautiful legal and local open-air events, such as at the ://about:blank garden, OXI Club, Else, Deus Temple, and one Unrush evening at my friend’s art exhibition in Säälchen… In between, there were also a few streams with Bewegungsfreiheit, Gegen Berlin, HÖR, and an Unrush showcase during Krake Festival.
Unrush is a record label, podcast and event series focusing on ambient sounds. What was your motivation to start this project?
The idea came to me in 2015 while I was on the verge of a burnout. I didn’t know my personal boundaries too well and learned it the hard way… However, at that particular time, I was listening to loads of ambient music, especially the early tracks by Brian Eno, Cluster, Pete Namlook, and also to DJ mixes on various platforms… I thought there’s more room for ambient mixes, and wanted to build my own platform. Besides that, I was curious what other artists listen to when they have their downtime. The first mix and interview was launched in May 2016, followed by an event at Kulturraum Zwinglikirche e.V. and the label inauguration in 2018.
Besides many DJ mixes and interviews as part of the podcast, you also have released three compilations on the Unrush label. Why the focus on compilations instead of releases by single artists or music projects, and how do you approach putting them together?
With Unrush I want to showcase a huge variety of ambient-ish music. Every genre has its soft side and I think that you can express this very well via compilations. Due to the charity purpose, I found that compilations have a good character for this as you reach different audiences with it. But by the way, singles and LPs are planned for the future.
All proceeds from the first two compilations went to help4people, while the money earned from The Unrush Files 01 – Rush of Communion to the Detroit Justice Center. Why is it so important to you to direct the proceeds to these causes?
When the first cassette came out, it was particularly intense with the war in the Middle East and Africa and people having to flee their countries. I followed the news every day and just knew that I wanted to do something meaningful at that time. I had the platform ready and decided that I would ask artists that I knew to contribute to the first compilation. It was a very quick process, thanks to the generous artists. After some research on where to direct the profit, I chose help4people in Berlin e.V.. Directing the proceeds from the The Unrush Files 01 – Rush of Communion compilation to the The Detroit Justice center was a result of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer. After speaking to my friends in America to ask what they would suggest where to direct the money for the protesters, they all agreed on this institution. America’s jail system is simply disgusting and therefore I preferred an institution in Detroit.
The first two compilations were released on cassette tapes. What makes this format so suitable for this particular kind of music?
Cassettes are a very “unrushing” medium for me. If you are lucky, your tape player even flips the cassette automatically, hell yes! A physical medium is important to me. I have a good relationship with tapes, since they were my first medium for discovering music, they look sexy with all the cool design possibilities, and they have a warm sound. As a collector, I have a lot of ambient music on vinyl, but they are also very sensitive. A little fine hair-scratch or statics can ruin the whole ambiance.
In August last year, you joined forces with Staub and the Intergalactic Research Institute for Sound label for an event called “Ambientgarden” – apparently the first of a planned series, even though there has never been a second edition thanks to, well, the circumstances. How did the collaboration come about and what was the concept behind it?
Oh, this was a beautiful experience last summer! Irakli and I know each other for some time through music and he’s also been doing the design work for Unrush for about two years now. He called me up one day and told me about his idea and I was: “Sure, count me in!” Always felt like the ://about:blank garden has exactly this magical vibe for this kind of music. The concept was simple: three artists – two live sets, one DJ set – from different angles performing their interpretation of ambient music. No dancing, just chilling and enjoying sounds. We will hopefully repeat this in 2021.
A quick glance on your recent end-of-the-year vinyl charts for the mailorder HHV makes it apparent however that even in a year of accelerated standstill, you were still very much paying attention to music that was aiming for the dancefloor. What role did club music play for you in these past months?
I love electronic music. Even at home. Also I didn’t want to lose my connection to fresh productions, and of course also kept buying music for the artists’ and labels’ sake. Besides that, I was also listening and discovering loads of 80s pop, disco, soul, and funk. It felt a bit like neutralising the smell with coffee after visiting a perfume shop. When I work for hours in the studio on particular sounds it’s important for me to listen to something else afterwards.
You’ve been a resident at Berlin’s Tresor club since 2012. How did that come about and what does it mean to you to hold a residency at this particular club?
Two friends who still play there regularly suggested me to the bookers and I had the pleasure to play at one of the Tresor Next events, which was on a Saturday night in the autumn of 2011. It was definitely my biggest gig until then and a huge milestone for me, plus the loudest and craziest sound system I had ever played at that time. After that, I got booked regularly and eventually was asked to host one of the New Faces nights and to become a resident. What I love about Tresor is that I can perfectly express my old school-flavoured sound there and the crowd is really appreciating it. I feel also very comfy playing on the Globus floor, +4Bar and in OHM. But the basement is definitely my favourite place.
The New Faces series puts an emphasis on giving up and coming DJs a chance to play at Tresor. What’s important to you when programming these types of events – what do you look for in a striving DJ?
The amount of DJs has significantly risen over the last years, and everything has turned more competitive. I realised that the majority of the really good up and coming DJs will not advertise themselves heavily, so I’m looking proactively myself mostly or refer to the recommendations of friends and colleagues or just keep my ears and eyes open when I’m going out. If I hear someone who has a unique taste and style, I’m happily approaching them. I’m still listening to mixes and tracks that have been sent to me though. I’m also checking their online presence, what they have done so far, where they have played, if are they active or just hobby DJs. A good DJ should make their own research on music and have a unique signature, like mixing techniques, a musical ear and discovering rare tracks.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I felt like showcasing synthesised sounds and melodies. Techno wasn’t too present for me in the past year to be honest. It was a musical time, so I chose more musical and broken tracks rather than repetitive four-to-the-floor tunes. Also I must admit that I always struggle a bit to create a techno set in my home environment. 2020 went by so quickly, so fast BPMs between 135 and 160 only seemed appropriate. It is a reflection on listening sessions with friends and my learning about synthesised sounds. Besides that, I’m featuring close friends who have worked really hard on their music in recent times. And today is my friend’s birthday and she always wanted a full electro set from me. So happy birthday, Anna!
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
In February, my first full ambient EP with JakoJako will see the light of the day on Muzan Editions, and we also have a release on Tresor Records coming out this year. Now that I gathered so much experience and confidence in music making, I keep working on my own tracks as well, which will be more dancefloor orientated. Unrush will continue with mixes and releases – also EPs – and a chill event in summer is planned, which will be announced soon. I hope that the Ambientgarden series will continue as well… A few DJ requests came in already. Let’s see what this year brings. I better keep staying flexible!
Stream: Mareena – Groove Podcast 283
01. Radioactive Man – The Mezz (FUEL)
+ Drexciya – Interstellar Crime Report (Underground Resistance)
02. No Moon – aoe_advancing (Craigie Knowes)
03. Umwelt – Subterranean Bases (Shipwrec)
04. Versalife – Axion (20/20 Vision)
05. E.R.P. – Vox Automation (Frustrated Funk)
06. Kuldaboli – Kuklari (bbbbbb recors)
07. Plant43 – Density Wave (Plant43 Records)
08. Shinra – Pinwheel (Analogical Force)
09. Animistic Beliefs – Ojo De Las Grayas (brokntoys)
10. John Selway – Gravity Probe (Serotonin Records)
11. CYRK – Human Mind (Science Cult)
12. DMX Krew – What happened to peace? (Breakin´ Records)
13. Anz – Gary Mission (Hessle Audio)
14. The Advent – Inner Space (Kombination Research)
15. Paul Blackford – Get Down (Deep & Roll)
16. Toni Moralez – Ca Ya Really Feel it (Ghettotraxx)
17. Stojche – Thug Life (Infiltrate)
18. DJ Godfather & Starski – City Of Boom (D.E.T. Only)
19. Skuum – Forza – Luz1e´s Killah Cut (Strictly Strictly)
20. Matthis Ruffing – Across The Fibre (Strictly Strictly)
21. crouds – You talk the talk – JakoJako Remix (Intumi Records)
22. Laksa – Sen On One (Timedance)
23. Gen-Y – Saturn Flow (Clone West Coast Series)
24. Francesco Devincenti – Paradoxia (unreleased)