With her energetic DJ-sets reflecting her rich knowledge of electronic music culture, Mareena has earned herself a reputation as a brilliant DJ and curator. Besides being a Tresor resident since 2012, she is one of the curators of the New Faces nights and hosts her own quarterly Klubnacht at the esteemed Berlin club. 2016 saw the launch of her unrush concept, a podcast, interview and event series exploring the multifaceted world of ambient. A colourful compilation including artists like 3KZ, Sirko Müller, Katya Yonder and Wanderwelle marks the starting point of Mareena’s latest project, The Unrush Tapes.

A recurring question in the interviews you at unrush have asked artists contributing to your podcast series has been: “When was the last time you felt touched emotionally?” This made me curious about when the last time you felt touched emotionally was.

A significant moment was visiting and playing in Detroit in May. That was definitely a very emotional trip for me. I had some really intense moments while wandering through the streets, grasping the vibe of the city and the people. I was amazed how friendly and helpful everybody was, as I expected it to be a more rough place. But I learned that the city has experienced a lot of changes during the last years.

Was it your first time in Detroit?

Yes. This is where techno started, so being there was something very special to me. I also got the chance to connect to some local artists I really admire, the guys from Underground Resistance for instance. On the plane back home I watched the movie “Detroit”, which is about the 1967 street riots. It was really heavy what happened there. So coming from Detroit, actually finding a very positive city and then seeing this movie was a bit depressing in the end.

How did the whole unrush concept come about?

The first seed for the idea was laid in the beginning of 2015, when I was on the verge of a burnout. I was studying, had two jobs, was DJ’ing on the weekends and had a difficult relationship. It was very draining. This life kept on for about a year, and at one point I just had to draw the line and went to Thailand for four weeks, trying to settle myself again. At that time, I was going deep into ambient music. Before I had been a big fan of dub techno, really deep music, but I had never gotten so intensively into pure ambient. But then I listened to a lot of it, and I thought it was difficult finding ambient mixes. There were some sites on various platforms, but I felt there was more room for this. So I decided to start my own podcast series.

Finally, in May 2016 we had our first podcast and interview up. The series is meant as a platform for people to relax, or if they just want to listen to something chill, read something inspiring from artists, while at the same time being connected to the seasons. We try to showcase something more light in the summer, getting a little darker during winter. To me ambient and nature is connected.

Who other than you is part of it?

At the moment we are three people. Joop who is doing the design, Nathan, also known as the artist Josef Gaard, is responsible for all the wording. Désirée, a friend and fellow student, who I organized the events with, unfortunately had to leave because she started in a full-time job. So at the moment, we are three people. The design part will undergo some changes in the near future as I will start working with Irakli from the former techno duo I/Y. And actually I am looking for one or two additional persons, especially for events, label work and maybe even for some editorial stuff, as the website is going up again soon. So if anyone is interested they can get in touch!

Unrush event at Zwinglikirche, Berlin. Photo: Sarah Kindermann

What does “unrush” mean to you?

To be in a safe place, or in a state of mind where you can feel good about yourself, where you can forget about what happened today or what will happen tomorrow. The present moment is what counts.

After over thirty podcasts and a couple of events, you felt that now was the right time to expand the unrush project to also be a label? What is your motivation and vision behind it?

During the last ten years I have been deeply involved in music, and I always dreamt of having my own record label. And now after running the mixes and interviews for two years, I thought it’s a natural next step to go a bit deeper into it and start a label. Also, my friends encouraged me a lot to go for it. So that’s how it came to fruition.

For now the goal is to release a tape twice a year and keep it working as a charity project. I find that very important. Also I want to present artists that are under the radar, but definitely deserve to be released. Yeah, and basically just make people listen to great ambient music!

How did the first compilation come together? How did you select the artists and put together the sequence of the tracks?

Every artist on the tape is someone I’ve worked with previously. May it be through the unrush podcast, my Tresor events or in any other way in the music industry. If I choose to work with an artists I try to not let it be this one thing, but rather to build something around it. I work towards building a circle of people where you feel good, can work together and have the same mindset. And all of the artists on the tape are people that I highly respect for their work.

I picked artists who fit together musically. Some sent me five tracks, some just sent me one, some sent me ten to choose from. So that’s how the whole sequence came together, putting together the ones where I could choose with the other tracks. In the end the result is pretty cool I think. Everything makes sense in a way. It’s very colourful, every track has it’s own character, like the artists have. That’s what I like about compilations.

Yeah, I was also reminded of this while listening to the tape. Recently I’ve mostly been listening to releases by only one artist, which is also nice, since you can delve into one specific sound or personality.

Going deep into the mind of one artist, see what’s going on there, that’s also amazing of course.

But it’s also good to be reminded about how nice it is to have these different vibes.

Yes, that’s what I really like. On some compilations the tracks can totally deviate from each other, but that’s the thing with ambient, this relaxing vibe is always there. I think that the tracks work really well together, although they are quite different.

Yes, I think it’s a nice story, starting really soft with some soundscapes, moving towards a bit more melancholic pieces and finally ending on a positive note.  

Yes, it goes to the highest point in the end. The last track is from Sander from the duo Random XS, producing this track under his Zero One alias. I booked him and his music partner with a different project at one of my nights at Tresor, and after a longer conversation I asked Sander if he wanted to contribute to the cassette. When I received his track we had to adjust it, because it was actually recorded in the 1990s. It was basically a hardware recording, a very long one, about 13 minutes. It was going towards more techno at the end. So I asked him to shorten that out, and I was really happy in what he turned this beauty. I already felt that this will be the last and most intense track on the tape.

All the profits from the release are going to the charity organization Help4People in Berlin. In what sense is unrush also a political project for you?

For me techno or electronic music is a political movement in general. When I got to know about techno it was about the music, about the people that live in a certain way, communicate in a certain way. Back then it wasn’t about how you present yourself in the Internet, you just found each other – mostly through music – got on with each other, loved and danced to the same music. You even developed a lifestyle out of it. This had always something to do with politics. We were against the mainstream, we wanted to be different, no government slaves. We weren’t agreeing with political issues.

Going back to the history of techno, where techno came from in Detroit, people wanted to express their struggle and oppression through music. Artists like the guys from Underground Resistance canalised these feelings and put it into music. This is how it developed, so techno and politics go hand in hand. I have always followed this philosophy. For me it’s about the music, giving people a good time and supporting each other so we can grow. 

Today, I think a lot of people actually lost the connection to the music and what techno is all about. I don’t want to judge this, if people want to go out taking drugs and just dance, without getting involved deeper, it’s totally fine for me. Everybody should do what feels good to them. If people enter the scene and want to get rich being a DJ – totally fine. But for me it will always be something more than that. Creating a better world with what you’re doing is something that means a lot to me. I think people should more often think with their hearts and feel with their brains. But I find these things are always difficult to talk about.

Yes, sometimes it can be hard putting these kind of things into words. Maybe it’s also not meant to be put into words because it’s just some kind of feeling.

I agree. That’s why I don’t judge the young generation of artists and ravers. Every generation has their own values and learn things differently. I grew up without the Internet, I was mostly listening to a limited amount of music from cassettes or vinyls, so it was a different relationship to music. When I was seeing my friends, there was no smartphone or anything similar, it was just us and music, talking and exchanging. I think this got a little lost. 

Yes, I wonder what difference exactly it makes how you can connect to a certain kind of music depending on the format it is released on. I did never really experience it when there was no Internet, so for me that’s just how it is. Of course I remember when the Internet or CDs were something new, but still.

I think music is taken for granted these days. It turned into a commodity, something you can have all the time, everywhere, whenever you want, from whoever you want. It’s similar to the information overload we experience every day. For the culture of music it’s not beneficial, but on the other hand the digital shift opens up possibilities for artists who may not have the resources to get their music pressed on vinyl. They can put their music out on Bandcamp for instance, and they can be heard. This is definitely a good thing.

So yes, I still have a different connection when I buy music on vinyl rather when I download it. Unless it’s a track I’ve been chasing forever, cannot afford a ridiculous Second Hand price, and finally found it as a download. But if you go to a record store and find this one vinyl that you have been looking for for ages, and you then have it in your hand, you never knew the name, you never knew anything about it, and you just have it in your hand, go to the listening area, listen to it and you say: “Holy shit! That’s the track I’ve always wanted!” I don’t think any file can give you that feeling. At least to me.

Or sometimes when you look through the records and then you see a record you have been thinking of for a long time. It’s just a really nice feeling.

Yes, so we should all go more to record stores. I think we have to remind ourselves, because these little moments are so beautiful.

Photo: Désirée Dargel

In an earlier conversation you mentioned that ambient and tape is a perfect match. Please elaborate.

This comes with my personal experience. I have a lot of ambient vinyls and sometimes I can get a bit messy with them. So if there is one little hair-scratch on a record, especially if it’s a really delicate track, I feel a bit heartbroken, because then I have ruined the whole vinyl. Also, the tone arm and the needles of my Technics player add some additional frequencies to the music. And personally, I think CDs are really unsexy. I never really liked them. So what’s left? The tape.

There is a specific warmth to it, I think they look beautiful and it’s this old school thing I’m following. I think the sound in my DJ sets is old school and I love an old school medium. It can only be vinyl or tape for me somehow, so I chose tape to be my favourite medium for ambient now. For the label it was important to chose some kind of physical medium, because it’s just this feeling of having a physical medium that you put in your recorder, you let it run, you listen rather than skipping through it all the time like you do sometimes with a file. This is something more unrushing and relaxing.

With ambient you have to take time. It’s like active relaxation for me. Especially when I come home after playing a closing set in Tresor. You have just been playing for maybe six or seven hours and then suddenly you are totally cut off. Your ears are ringing a bit and you have to calm down. So the first thing I do when I get home is putting on this one ambient CD – sorry never got released on vinyl or tape – I have, it’s a Tresor release from TV Victor. It has the right balance of beats and relaxing sounds. I can reflect the night/ morning and sleep in easily.

I think ambient also makes you reflect in another way than a lot of other music. There are some other worlds opening up.

Yes, totally. There is active but also passive relaxation. I think there are definitely tracks that trigger your brain to something really creative and beautiful. It kind of puts oxygen in your brain.

Finally, what can we expect from future unrush releases?

I’m now working on the second tape. I already asked some artists and they were all up for it. This will be out around November hopefully. And also this time with some special artworks, maybe ten tapes together as a special edition. I found a really nice designer who does cardboard sleeves with a special folding technique. I want to get away from plastic, because it’s bad for our planet. And we will support a charity project again. It would be nice working even closer with an organisation, integrating refugees into the events and releasing music by them.

Additionally, I would like to release albums, maybe not 2019, but 2020 the latest. I have some artists in my mind already who I would love to ask, who definitely deserve more recognition, amazing composers in my opinion. I’m not rushing into anything but have a long term plan…


The Unrush Tapes 01 – Requiems for Refuge is available both digitally and physically via Bandcamp.


Check out unrush and Mareena on soundcloud.

Photo: Désirée Dargel

Photo (top): Marie Staggat