Dynamic, progressive, and free-spirited. These are the words commonly associated with Leipzig, the East German city from which this B2Beats duo hails, but they could also be used to describe the mix itself. Finely balancing soulful ’90s gems, rare grooves, and contemporary left field releases by the likes of Huerta, Wordcolour, and Rheji Burrell on Gerd Janson’s Running Back imprint, I$A and AGYENA flex their eclectic tastes in a new hour-long mix recorded in their shared flat.
AGYENA, who started out DJing in bars and clubs in his native city of Nuremberg, and is closely involved in the Bavarian electronic music festival Pulsår, moved to Leipzig two years ago after an interlude in Berlin. His flatmate I$A had already been a recognizable figure in the city’s electronic music scene since moving there eight years ago and was involved in the local female DJ crew G-edit before co-founding the nice4what collective. “Some may call it destiny,” AGYENA says, reflecting on moving in with someone who shares the same passion for electronic music, DJing, and club culture. In Leipzig, he continues, “I’m surrounded with lots of talented and inspirational people. It’s like a good party that you just can’t leave.”
Despite the severe restrictions on club culture over the last year, both have remained committed to their practice, performing alongside Job Jobse at Institut fuer Zukunft’s United We Stream session, Club Quarantäne, HÖR, Else, and at a back-to-back set at the infamous Electric Weekender at Conne Island. In a more forgiving 2021, the two would have been set to play Nachtiville, the winter offshoot of one of Germany’s most revered raves, this weekend. Instead, I$A and AGYENA take us on a virtual trip through their choice selections that glide from old-school to new-school house, with sanguine melodies and a persistent groove showcasing their true passions behind the decks. Get to know.
Trans - 4M - Denicity
Marine Boy - La Monde Marine Part I
Huerta - Legwork
Manao - Estela
Ismistik - Flowcharts Remade
DJ Life - White Bricks
Random Factor - Undercurrent
Akwaaba - Flux
Wordcolour - Tell Me Something
Jocelyn Enriquez - A Little Bit Of Ecstasy
Tiago Walter - You Better Don't Stop
Carol Baley - Understand Me (Free Your Mind) (Instrumental Mix)
Dance Rhythm - Working It Out
Rheji Burell - Destiny
Electronic Beats: For those who have never been to Leipzig, can you describe what the club scene was like when you first started going out in the city?
I$A: I moved to Leipzig 8 years ago, and honestly, I didn’t know anything about the club scene back then. At first I went to student clubs, but these clubs don’t really go for selected club music. About five years ago I went to IfZ for the first time and slowly slipped into the scene from there. What I like about Leipzig is that there are not too many clubs, but they are distinct from each other. You can choose to spend your weekend relaxing in a bar or at a concert, but you also have the option of choosing between varied types of music and clubs. For me, as a woman, it was also super useful that you can network with diverse collectives so quickly.
EB: What is your favorite place to dig for music?
I$A: In Leipzig, my favorite spot is Vary, a small record shop, but also a café that offers super delicious cake and coffee. I also like to dig at Inch-By-Inch and Sleeve++, these two are more focused on second-hand records.
AGYENA: I love the atmosphere there and before lockdown, I’d sometimes just go there to read or work. If they hand me a record to listen to, it is guaranteed to hit the spot!
EB: Talk us through your process when playing together. Do you do each pick two tracks in a row before switching, or do you have any kind of methodology?
I$A: I think it depends on the moment. When we DJ at home, it’s very spontaneous. When we’re playing together publicly—so far it’s only been twice, but hopefully more someday—we talk about it before our gig. I like it when each of us takes turns playing one track so our set becomes more varied. Since we spent a lot of time together as flatmates, we just developed an unconscious, yet very aware, way of interacting with each other. Although we usually go through our own record shelves first, we often end up selecting tracks for our back-to-backs that are somehow connected to the other person.
Can you describe each other’s styles in comparison to one another?
AGYENA: When I think of I$A’s music, I instantly feel smooth and sensual house vibes! Her music makes me feel sexy and often beams me back to very passionate moments on dance floors. One track that encapsulates this feeling is “S.E.X. (Conant Gardens Posse Remix)” by Omar S and L’Renee. I heard it for the first time on the recording of her legendary set at the Kann Garden party at ://about blank two years ago, after I had just moved in with her in Leipzig. I also love how I$A honors so many classic influences of contemporary house music, like R&B, garage, and breaks, while never neglecting the effectiveness of a saturated four-to-the-floor kick drum.
I$A: The first word which comes to my mind when I think of AGYENA’s sound is “energetic.” His sets always make you want to dance. They’re packed with grooves and good vibes. I will always think of “Perishing Thirst” by Desecr-8 as a “classic Agyena track.” There are two versions of this song; one is more powerful, with an outstanding acid line, and the second version (“Perishing Thirst – Enhance”) has a more dreamy, cheesy house vibe. I think that’s more typical for my sound.
EB: Can you recount a favorite memory of playing out with each other? Any DJ highlights so far?
I$A: For me, the Electric Weekender party at Conne Island is definitely one of my summer highlights. It felt so good to be outside and to experience a club-like evening with friends, and of course, I had so much fun playing with AGYENA at our first official gig.
AGYENA: The Electric Weekender was unreal! I have never been to Conne Island before, so when I arrived there I was overwhelmed by the wholesomeness of the outside location. They have a huge skate ramp, a small forest in the outside area, and unbelievably good food! We were both really hyped about closing the party together and the mood was out of this world, like literally, because it was one of the few gigs this year where either of us saw as many people dance in front of us.
B: I$A, you’re part of the femme-forward DJ crew nice4what. What was your motivation behind co-founding nice4what, and can you describe a few highlight projects or sets so far?
I$A: nice4what is made up of Anna Malysz, enelRAM, Naitwa, and myself. We’re a group of four very close friends, and we’ve always dreamed of doing our own events. So we decided to start our own feminist collective. Before launching nice4what, we were all part of different networks—for example G-EDIT, Feat. Fem—but we felt it was easier for us to plan things in a smaller group. Some highlights so far have been playing at Job Jobse’s Strangelove club night alongside CEM and JASSS, and hosting our own parties in collaboration with other women, like the DRIVE event series at Institut fuer Zukunft. We also built parts of the festival site at the last edition of Nachtdigital.
EB: AGYENA, how did you get involved in Pulsår Festival? Could you describe the festival a bit for readers who haven’t been?
AGYENA: Pulsår Festival is a one-day festival, but the quality of the line-up and the crowd make it such a beacon of light in this area of Germany that it attracts people from other cities, too. When I first started DJing I kind of jumped between parties hosted by different collectives in Nuremberg. After some time, I was invited to play at a warehouse rave as part of the event series X+, which would invite high-profile DJ acts without announcing them prior to the event. I really enjoyed this because the crowd at these parties wasn’t focused on the presence of a popular act, but rather on the music and the interaction with each other on the dance floor. Little did I know the X+ team had even more projects in the works! Next to Pulsår Festival, they also organized a party series focused on house music in all its colorfulness called Høthøuse. That was the first party series that I played as a resident of the Pulsår Crew, playing alongside DJs like Hunee, Italo Johnson, and Job Jobse.
EB: What kind of intentions are you taking into 2021?
I$A: This year has been very difficult and crazy for all of us—for some people more, for others less. What I’ve learned this year is to take breaks when I need them, leaving stress and pressure behind. This year I’d love to learn how to produce my own music and use feminist vocal samples because there’s not enough of that out there.
AGYENA: 2020 was such a challenging year for so many of us, and I know that everyone is happy that it’s over, but—hear me out—I actually want to take a lot into the next year! For me, last year was filled with opportunities for growth. That’s not to say that this year should contain just as many challenges, but I definitely feel more equipped and prepared for any obstacle than ever before. That said, I’m taking on more music projects, my own productions, as well as continuing my career in research. One thing I truly want to leave behind, though, is the distance we all had to keep for so long.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Caroline Whiteley is an editor at Electronic Beats based in Berlin.
Published January 19, 2021. Words by Caroline Whiteley.