The sound of Detroit past, present and future.
"This is a great city. We've done more to influence world culture than any other city in America, I personally believe," says a vocal sample in Jose de Divina, Tania Vulcano & Audiohell's "Detroit," the centrepiece of this mix. Ariel Corley's DJing style embodies the long-lasting impact and influence of the Motor City on music both mainstream and underground. Her style connects the dots between R&B, funk, soul, disco, house and garage—connections that seem obvious, but aren't always easy to pull off on the dance floor. In Holographic's hands, though, it sounds smooth as butter. She can tell a history of Detroit dance music in just an hour or two.
A core part of the modern Detroit scene and a regular at places like Tangent Gallery, Marble Bar and TV Lounge, Corley has also become an international star in her own right over the last few years. She reps her city in a comprehensive, multi-faceted way that's all her own. Beyond just mixing genres, she mixes styles and scenes too—you'll hear tracks as suited for the dance floor at a Circo Loco party in Ibiza as tracks you might hear in an opening set at a sweaty Detroit basement or hands-in-the-air anthems for a big festival stage. Her RA podcast is the perfect thing to get an evening going, starting sultry and getting progressively skipper, chunkier and funkier, the kind of pacing you pick up after years spent playing at local bars, dives and nightclubs.
What have you been up to recently?
Having been locked down in Detroit for pretty much the whole year has enabled me to be incredibly productive. I’ve got so much more done than I ever could have if I was touring. I've just put out my first EP and started my own label, Hitchhiker, and I've been playing a few online festivals along with local gigs in the city (social distancing) here and there.
Outside of music, I'm becoming more involved with different platforms of social activism. Detroit is pretty much an 80 percent Black city so Black Lives Matter conversations are even more pronounced here, and it means so much to let the world know our lives matter. I'm seeing a lot of fellow Detroit artists and familiar faces and behind the masks at the protests.
I'm also doing a lot of research into what I can personally be doing to help my local community as much as I can. In a few parts of the city they don't have access to running water so COVID-19 spikes have been happening a lot more, I've been looking into this a lot.
I’m looking into buying my childhood home with my cousin in Detroit. There's a lot of emotional and nostalgic references in my mix which relate to memories of me listening to records from a young age in my childhood home. This is another thing I definitely wouldn't have had time to do if I was still touring, so it's a really loving time in that respect and I'm so grateful to have had the time to start looking into this process!
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded in my studio space at Submerge, which is a record shop in the basement and community hub owned by Underground Resistance and Mad Mike Banks. Mike has the space for a few select local artists, and I'm lucky enough to have a space in there, the vibe is truly brilliant to be around. I recorded the mix there and it's also where I made my first EP. On the first floor there's an archive of techno's history present and future. It's an iconic building.
Can you tell us the idea behind the mix?
I wanted to recreate the full nights experience and ritual of going out in Detroit in a mix, from start to finish. What you're hearing is a first person memory of a typical night out in Detroit, from getting ready at home, to the club, afterparty and then right through to ending the night with food at a Coney Island. I included a lot of Detroit names like Moodymann, Black Noi$e, Ectomorph and artists I know locally such as Waajeed and local vocalist trio Dames Brown.
The mix starts with the getting ready process before you leave the house, starting the night listening to soulful tracks, funk & R&B, calling my friends to make sure they’re going to the same place and to sort out plans, being your own pre-party DJ to get your night hyped up.
Then we transition into the car and we're heading to the first bar and club from when Moodymann kicks in. We’re still lucky to have some really cool radio stations in Detroit and radio culture is so influential and integral to the city. The Progressive Underground with Chris Campbell show is similar to the kind of sounds I play in this mix: rare grooves, electronica, funk & soul.
There's a law in Detroit that says "You can't dance hard" after 2 AM (before COVID-19 hit we were actually getting close to end this law) so once the clubs finish we'd go to warehouse afterparties. This mix is how I feel about Detroit. I miss going out in my city with my Detroit family so much.
You play a lot of funk, soul, disco and R&B—music with lyrics. Are the lyrics in the songs you play important in setting the mood in your sets?
I'm really big on vocals and lyrics and play a lot of tracks with vocals in my sets. I listen to a lot of hip-hop, I enjoy the tone of somebody's voice and the mood it can create in a piece of music.
Vocals are definitely a part of Detroit culture to have vocals in music as a form of expression. There are rarely instrumentals being played on radio here.
Growing up as a kid I was lucky to have had early experiences of the aftermath of The Electrifying Mojo on the radio, a local radio legend whose shows had a ripple effect in Detroit and were an inspiration to so many artists like the Belleville Three. He would ask people to flash their lights on and off if they were into the music and one of my earliest childhood memories is seeing whole blocks of houses turn their lights on and off.
You recently put out your first EP. What inspired you to make a full record and how did you find the recording/writing process?
When I first started DJing, honing my skills as a DJ was what I wanted to do first. After about nine years I was ready to start making music. I met Alex only a month before we made the EP and we were in Submerge every day for a full month. The track "My Feels" was inspired by the exact moment when I opened for Octo Octa and was in awe at the energy she created within herself and brought to the world. Eris Drew was with her too hanging out and I was so inspired by their love that I knew I had to create "My Feels." I love all forms of pure love.
What are you up to next?
I'm trying to keep up crucial conversations in my community and making sure people are voting. I'm playing the third Rave The Vote on September 11 with Carl Craig, The Blessed Madonna, Yaeji, DJ Pierre and Aluna. I'm really excited to be mixing the next Detroit Love compilation for Carl Craig which is coming later this year.
At the moment though I'm just trying to take things day by day until the universe decides to have us move forward in our story. The most important thing to me right now is making sure that conversations are happening that need to be happening—the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor in her own home need to be brought to justice.