“unnamed, uncounted, disregarded I find you. unnamed, uncounted, in the margins I find you”
-Every Ocean Hughes, uncounted
Orphans is a satellite in the orbit of Elation, Colin Self’s speculative multi-act, sci-fi operetta that conceptually concluded with the 2018 album Siblings.
In part a prequel to Siblings, Orphans continues to center non-biological family storytelling based on the forgotten, unnamed, and marginalized. At Orphans‘ nucleus is the eternal child, left to their own devices to survive through pleasure-seeking, creative community-building, and imaginative strategizing.
Orphans opens with the seeds of an epic vocal overture. A prelude piece to Siblings sharing an origin story with Ursula K. Le Guin, “Dispossessed” plots the family’s arrival on a new planet, their learning to exist and sustain together. A joyous farewell to the knowledge of and from “before,” it embraces the future and each other with grandiose visual flair and an orchestral swell, charged by Eve Essex’s flute playing, that rumbles the cyber concert hall floors. This familial voyage is echoed and extended throughout Planningtorock’s remix of “Survival” from Siblings. A repeated pizzicato string motif carries the narration through beatific transformation, a bittersweet symphony. Orphans moves from the invitational “me” and “you” of “Dispossessed” to a “we” chorus in “Survival” that signals definitive collective departure.
Between these two pieces, the almost-a capella aria “Once More,” previously a digital-only bonus track on Siblings, is revisited, demonstrating Self’s extraordinary, ageless vocal range. “Polyvagal” is a more personal return to youth for Self, generated from the same pure-pleasure-based composition practices inherent in machine jamming and integral to his musical past. An acidic bassline from an inherited Korg Polysynth is layered with a release of vocal screams. Dedicated to polyvagal theory as a model for understanding music as therapy (particularly through vocal release in relation to the body), “Polyvagal” is a call to heal the self and the collective through joy and catharsis, with a nod to the enduring underground.
Colin Self’s Orphans arrives November 12, 2019, almost exactly a year after Siblings, in eternal digital edition.
Dispossessed: Charlene Incarnate ( @charleneincarnate ) : Char is my sister from the house of Casa Diva in Brooklyn, New York, and undoubtedly one of the most incredible performers on this planet who has changed the history of drag with her singular presence, voice, and vision. She is deeply woven into the storytelling of Siblings and I couldn’t think of a better example of someone who is non-biological family. We started performing together and hosting shows at Casa Diva around 2015 and since them she has been an anchor of joy and sanity through the years. You ever have one of those friends that when you are hanging out with them, you feel like the realest version of yourself, and therefore, you receive the most clarity and understanding from that relationship? That’s Char for me. Char is a true fag the way that I am a fag and spending time and performing together, I feel this mutual empowerment to let that part of myself shine through. I see my best self come through our relationship.
Alongside this thread of beauty is one of mourning and loss. Another vibrant and loved member of the Brooklyn queer community , and Charlene’s partner @nicogogan passed away just a few days after taking this video. Nico was a handsome, shining example of kindness, generosity and spirit. Loved by many and forgotten by none, this video for Dispossessed is dedicated to Nico Gogan and the incredible impact he has left behind on this earth. We love you Nico.
Survival – Planningtorock Remix, performed by @vivvyanne_forevermore .
A lip sync is not just a lip sync, it is a portal to another universe created by collective imaginations of performer and audience. If you are in these worlds of performance, you probably already know this well. These portals have been powerful, transformative life experiences for me that have changed me to my core. .
For the Orphans EP I invited four of my favorite performing artists to create a lip sync for each song of this EP. @vivvyanne_forevermore is a herstorical figure in the SF drag scene from a lineage of queer family ( truly legendary @mr.davidglamamore & @missmore8 ) who took this gorgeous remix @planningtorock created for my song Survival, and lifted it even higher with this performance. Big love to The Stud and Aunt Charlie’s and the countless miracles I’ve experienced in these spaces, on these stages.
Colin Self – Polyvagal
performed by @xinaxurner .
Polyvagal theory is a theory that posits that the Vagus nerve is interconnected with and sensitive to influences that flow from the body toward the brain. The vagus nerve runs directly through the throat and corresponds to vocality, screaming; release through corporeal wildness. As Ann Carson’s The Gender of Sound teaches us, it is often the margins who are not given permission to be wild, loud, unruly as it poses threat to productivity, to normalcy, to the status quo. .
For the Orphans EP I invited four of my favorite performing artists to create a lip sync for each song of this EP. I couldn’t think of a better shining example of how wildness, beauty, and chaos can be sworn together into catharsis than my sis Young Joon Kwak (half of Xina Xurner) whose ongoing musical/artistic collaboration with their musical partner genius @senormijo continues to be some of my favorite music and performance on this planet. Young is a prolific and seminal embodiment of queer resistance and love this wild and unhinged lip sync through the strange in-between spaces of Los Angeles. .
GO check out all the Xina Xurner records and if you get a chance to see them live, don’t miss it. A huge thank you to Young and Marvin for elevating this song.
Once More is a requiem sung between human and spirit. I remember after a hard day in 2015 remembering my friend Mark Aguhar on the anniversary of when she passed away and I began to sing from the feeling. I sung in the dark and felt her presence with me. During these years “Death is not the ending” became a common thread through many projects. I feel lucky to have the helping spirits I do.. Daniel Williams, Grant Miller, Shannon Michael Cane, and especially my sister Mark.
For the Orphans EP I invited four of my favorite performing artists to create a lip sync for each song of this EP. As the last “portal” of this EP release, it was a miracle and joy to have my sis Silk Worm @silkybrinny perform this, shot by my Chez Deep sister @alexispenney . Over the years I have watched Silk open up some of the most beautiful portals with her performances (often with Brinny). Keeping the thread of Aunt Charlie’s drag shows alive in SF, Silk and Brinny are joining with @mylescooper (of High Fantasy).
This requiem, this hymn is dedicated to all the queer family who are no longer here in body but very here in spirit. Thank you Silk for this gorgeous lip-sync and Alexis for being softly woven into this song.