Kemistry & Storm / Yvonne Rainer
Kemistry & Storm / Yvonne Rainer
Kemistry & Storm / Yvonne Rainer
Kemistry & Storm / Yvonne Rainer
Kemistry & Storm / Yvonne Rainer

Kemistry & Storm / Yvonne Rainer

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Brown Hoodie - 50% preshrunk cotton 50% polyester
Profits to The Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC

Kemistry and Storm met while they were in college in Northampton, England. Though no music connection was made at the time, their paths would continue to cross despite the fact that they both moved on to different parts of England. At one point they both had boyfriends in the same band and later Kemi attended fashion school with Storm's cousin. Though Storm was attending school for radiography at Oxford, she felt her passion to work was not strong enough and, eventually, would not be able to compete with her passion for music. At the same time, Kemi was a make-up artist working in the London fashion industry. Ironically, it was in Sheffield that Kemi first was exposed to the emerging electronic scene through a friend of hers. Through going to a large number of events and exposing herself to the music it became a part of her life. That year, Storm moved to London and was introduced to electronic music by Kemi. Though music was always a surface interest, both of the women decided to give up their budding careers to chase their enthusiasm for one in music.

After graduating from Oxford, Storm slept on a mattress on Kemistry’s floor and their weekends gathered steam. Thursdays were dedicated to Rage at Heaven with drum’n’bass progenitors Fabio and Grooverider. Fridays they would drive to Coventry to see Doc Scott play at Amnesia. Sundays were spent in warehouses around Charing Cross, listening to UK techno DJs such as Steve Bicknell. By now, they were soul sisters.

Then Olusanya started dating Goldie, after he spotted her working in Red Or Dead on his cycle route to Camden. At the time, he was known as a graffiti artist, and had just returned home from painting and exhibiting in the US. While ravers were holding their second Summer of Love in the UK, he had been busy immersing himself in America’s burgeoning hip hop scene. Olusanya and Conneely took him to Fabio & Grooverider’s party Rage, credited as the incubator for early jungle music, at London nightclub Heaven, where he got his first taste for hardcore. “The tunes that these two were playing were the catalyst for Kemi and Storm,” Goldie says. “Kemi was the Fabio, Storm was more the Grooverider. I realised how passionate they were about these guys. I kind of related to that because of my passion for hip hop DJs.”

“Speak to anyone who attended RAGE back in the late '80s – a list of names that includes Goldie and Carl Cox – and you'll be able to tell by the look in their eyes that this was a club that changed lives. Founded in 1988 as acid house was sweeping across the UK, the Thursday night party pioneered a sleekly futuristic, breakbeat-laden take on the sound – at first known as hardcore, and at later stages of evolution, known as jungle or drum'n'bass.“

For many fans, the legacy of drum’n’bass is inextricably linked to Goldie and his mercurial energy. But it was Kemistry and Storm – his business partners for the genre’s most popular label, Metalheadz – who shaped the imprint with their collaborations and relentless work ethic. As DJs, they were pioneers in a mostly male world and their ability to mix heaving industrial rhythms and celestial minor chords set them apart. Their 1999 DJ Kicks mix is still seen as one of the genre’s most influential.

Just as their career in music was coming to a climax, tragedy struck the duo. On April 25, 1999, Kemi Olusanya was killed in a car accident outside of Winchester, England, as the two were returning from a performance. Her death was a shake to the electronic music community.

Motor Geometry (Kodwo Eshun)
Late 98: the cusp of the First Digital Age. Kemistry and Storm, London's internationally celebrated dj duo lead the ongoing reinvention of rhythm that is drum'n' bass. Every week, somewhere in the clubs and dancehalls of the planet, cosmopolitan youth are dancing to their set, shadowboxing with the breaks, rolling with the bass pressure, living life at the low end. Outside, it's unsteady, unsure, but in here, in the mix, you feel safe and you feel dangerous. Since the Metalheadz Sunday Sessions, way back in London late 95, Storm and Kemistry have been fascinated by the gravity of the sounds, the dynamics of drum 'n' bass. 

Emotionally, the temperature is anxious, compressed. Sonically, the friends favour brutalist tracks. Their thought processes are overwhelmingly heavy. Plug in the phones and you're there, at the cyclone's center where 'time is closing in', where the girl in Full Cycle producer Bill Riley's compelling, claustrophiliac Closing In sings, in a voice drained and charged, numbed and deadly all at once, shot by both sides and thriving on it. Here, the beats rollout until they slip the gears of your limbs. Throughout their K7 mix, the breakflow switches from pacy and punchy to rigidified mekanik. As sluggish as wet cement yet as treacherous as quicksand, digital rhythm is industrialized to extreme densities, processed past the timbral spectrum of metal, reinforced to the tonecolour of concrete. 

Bass is synthesized from analogue frequencies, welded together until they concuss, forcefields tweaked to emit hostile tones that swarm with sullen anger. Your mind is a muscle, the choreographer Yvonne Rainer wrote. In Jay Majik's Space Jam, the bass is lithe and limber, slipping between loops and holes, sparring with your shadow, moving in tight, tuning your peripheral perceptions, training your reflexes. Storm and Kemistry's mix springs trapdoors throughout the dancefloors, playing Jedi Mind Tricks with your motor geometry. Jonny L's Uneasy infiltrates Goldie's seething Hyaena, generating a drumscape of feelings in friction, trepidation against constriction, hyperalertness with inexorable despair.

From the horizon of the mix, Hyaena's bass stalks you, its heat seeking targeting you through the night of the headphones, hunting you across the hazardous terrain of your head. Syntharmonic tones shrieks and stab, strung out to the edge of tension. 'Release me' the girl in Uneasy sighs, trapped by beats that shut like padlocks. Somewhere on the planet Storm is looking up from behind the decks. With the precision honed from years slipping ahead of the groove, she navigates the networks of the mixer, alters the temperature of the nightime world, adjusts the neurocircuits of the party. Her eyes follow the patterns she hears, forehearing the drop before it bottoms out, anticipates the vacuum. Kemistry, serene, deep in concentration, cues up bass shocks with the tips of her fingers. Medics confirm what kinaesthetes like Kemistry and Storm already know, what their metamusical arrangement amplifies until it crushes: the brain doesn’t belong to the head; it begins at the toes and ends at the fingertips. At the extremes. -Kodwo Eshun

Yvonne Rainer
Yvonne Rainer is an American dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker, whose work in these disciplines is regarded as challenging and experimental. In 1962, at the age of 27, Rainer, Steve Paxton, and Ruth Emerson approached the Reverend Al Carmines at the Judson Memorial Church to ask if they could begin performing there. The Church was already known for the Judson Poets' Theater and Judson Art Gallery, which had been showing the work of Claes Oldenburg, Allan Kaprow, Robert Whitman, Jim Dine, and Tom Wesselmann. It now became a focal point for vanguard dance activity and concerts of dance.

“Your mind is a muscle”

Rainer is noted for an approach to dance that treats the body more as the source of an infinite variety of movements than as the purveyor of plot or drama. Many of the elements she employed—such as repetition, tasks, and indeterminacy—later became standard features of contemporary dance. In 1965, when writing about a recent dance — Parts of Some Sextets — for the Tulane Drama Review, she ended the essay with what became her notorious No Manifesto, which she "reconsidered" in 2008.

No to spectacle.
No to virtuosity.
No to transformations and magic and make-believe.
No to the glamour and transcendency of the star image.
No to the heroic.
No to the anti-heroic.
No to trash imagery.
No to involvement of performer or spectator.
No to style.
No to camp.
No to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer.
No to eccentricity.
No to moving or being moved.

In her early dances, Rainer focused on sounds and movements and often juxtaposed the two in arbitrary combinations. Inspired by the chance procedures favored by Cage and Cunningham, Rainer's choreography was a combination of classical dance steps contrasted with pedestrian movement. She used a great deal of repetition and employed spoken language and oral noises (including squeaks, and shrieks, etc.) within the body of her dances.

Repetition and sound were employed in her first choreographed piece, Three Satie Spoons (1961), a solo in three parts performed by Rainer to the accompaniment of Eric Satie's Trois Gymnopedies. The last section contained a repeated "beep beep beep in a falsetto squeak and the spoken line: "The grass is greener when the sun is yellower." Over time her work shifted to include more narrative and cohesive spoken words. Ordinary Dance (1962) was a combination of movement and narrative, and featured the repetition of simple movements while Rainer recited an autobiographical monologue containing the names of the streets on which she had lived while in San Francisco. One characteristic of Rainer's early choreography was her fascination with using untrained performers. We Shall Run (1963) had twelve performers, both dancers and non-dancers who, clad in street clothes, ran around the stage in various floor patterns for twelve minutes to the "Tuba Mirum" from Berlioz's Requiem. Her first evening length choreography, for six dancers, called Terrain, was performed at Judson Church in 1963.

One of Rainer's most famous pieces, Trio A (1966), was initially the first section of an evening-long work entitled The Mind Is a Muscle. Her decision in "Trio A" to execute movements with an even distribution of energy reflected a challenge to traditional attitudes to "phrasing," which can be defined as the way in which energy is distributed in the execution of a movement or series of movements. The innovation of Trio A lies in its attempt to erase the differences of energy investment within both a given phrase and the transition from one to another, resulting in an absence of the classical appearance of "attack" at the beginning of a phrase, recovery at the end, with energy arrested somewhere in the middle, as in a grand jeté. Another characteristic of this five-minute dance is that the performer never makes eye contact with the spectators, and in the instance in which the movement requires the dancer to face the audience, the eyes are closed or the head is involved in movement. Although Rainer used repetition in earlier works as a device to make movement easier to read, she decided to not repeat any movements in the piece. Trio A is often referred to as a task-oriented performance due to this style of energy distribution, also for its emphasis on a neutral, or characterless, approach to movement execution and a lack of interaction with the audience. The first time the piece was performed it was entitled The Mind is a Muscle, Part 1, and was performed simultaneously, but not in unison, by Rainer, Steve Paxton, and David Gordon. Trio A has been widely taught and performed by other dancers.

Written for a solo performer, it incorporates no music and features a seamless flow of everyday movements like toe tapping, walking, and kneeling. “It would be about a kind of pacing where a pose is never struck,” the artist once described. “There would be no dramatic changes, like leaps. There was a kind of folky step that had a rhythm to it, and I worked a long time to get the syncopation out of it.” Trio A positioned Rainer as a leader among the dancers, composers, and visual artists who were involved in the Judson Dance Theater (which she co-founded in 1962), an avant-garde collaborative that ushered in an era of contemporary dance through stripped-down choreography and casual and spontaneous performances.

The score for “Trio B, Running” from The Mind is a Muscle (1966–68), for example, maps out an energetic sequence in a single line propelled by directional arrows. On the walls, photographs of major dance works from the 1960s and early 1970s are accompanied by the artist’s thoughts on how to create “ordinary,” unpretentious dance from the basics of human activity. “You just do it,” Rainer says, “with the coordination of a pro and the non-definition of an amateur.” This exhibition leaves no doubt that Rainer “just did it” on her own terms.

Sometimes, artists find that groundbreaking work produced early in their career may overshadow the rest of their output. This was the case for Rainer with Trio A and “No Manifesto.” In her words: “It’s a little unfortunate, because it eclipses everything else I’ve done. It’s the most out-there, visible signature of my career. That and the ‘No Manifesto.’” In the 1970s, she stopped dancing altogether and turned her attention fully to filmmaking, producing films including Lives of Performers (1972), Kristina Talking Pictures (1976), and Privilege (1990).  It was not until the 2000s that Rainer would return to choreography.

Rainer’s 1990 film Privilege starts with a defiant close-up of her own face as she heavily applies lipstick and talks about a topic rarely broached in the movies: menopause. And just as the earlier film used a title card to present its thesis, Privilege begins with the credit: “A Film by Yvonne Rainer and Many Others.” Rainer uses this patchwork of sources to create a collectivist, intersectional critique—not of patriarchy, which Rainer takes as a given that her audience understands, but of white feminism.

The credits run between these unscripted scenes, and a monitor projects one final thought: “Utopia: The more impossible it seems, the more necessary it becomes.” Under the layers of political and personal critique, Rainer’s films come back to this idea: We can create utopia, but collectively, through new ways of seeing, thinking, and being.