Siblings (LP/Album)






Colin Self’s Siblings is a proposal for interdependence, critical joy, and an expansive sense of being. As the lyrics beam, “I used to live as an anomaly… no explanation biologically,” so siblings share hidden language, lore, and identity. On Siblings, ecstatic voices and sound knot to form new ideals of kinship, emerging as horizontal relations for multi-species flourishing.

Colin Self challenges boundaries of perception with his art, music, and performances. Inspired by the work of Donna Haraway (Cyborg ManifestoStaying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene), Siblings is the final segment of the six-part opera series entitled Elation. Informed by Self’s exploration of the ways of knowing, Siblings places a non-biological family at its center. The characters, bonded by curiosity and caring, generate ways of collectively coming together on a damaged planet. Self uses Siblings to define this familial experience through sound and its soundmakers.

Siblings is a mobile, transitional production, in equal parts by circumstance and happenstance. Field fragments taken from Halloween party laughter in Jamaica Plains and a cross-country video chat are refracted by session recordings willed to happen in places as far flung as Stockholm and Los Angeles. Siblings is a sound scrapbook or poster board collage, but not one without careful consideration of the clipping and composition.

From years experiencing Riot Grrrl shows around Self’s early home of Oregon to his involvement in the New York City-based performance collective Chez Deep, Self expands the DIY ethos to a space and mind of Do-It-Together. Feeding into Siblings is XHOIR, Self’s ongoing project of group vocal workshops for singing and listening, and a broad cast of kin including but not limited to Michael BeharieGreg Fox (drums), Martine Syms (words and voice), The Mivos Quartet, and Raul De Nieves (cover art).

On “Story,” Siblings’ opening moment, breath and beats emerge as echoes within a vast, heaving chamber, sound conjured and cajoled into a new, blistered terrain. “Foresight” urges us toward a worlding – a break from the planet we’ve disregarded: “I see on my screen all the doubt, where it comes from, why you trust in no one. I see a new light.” While the unhinged form of “Ante-Strategy” lays the sonic compost for a Belurusian political poem, written with Tanya Zamirouskayaand Anastasia Kolas, Self tends toward elaboration and excesses in a “joyous rendering of survival.”

Siblings splits sides with “Transitions,” a pluri-vocal burst called forth from interstellar margins to put uncounted bodies in motion. Repetitions of “I commit to you” end with “We commit to you.” Self utilizes theoretical vocabulary to encourage germination of a new language. “Research Sisters” will make their own myths and forge their own families, the work’s fire sparking frenetic, ecstatic voices flashing back and forth in stereo. The gathering of choral voices lift up the melancholic words of “The Great Refusal” over pillowy layers of strings and stumbling, sputtering showers of keyboards.

Siblings is Self’s second full-length release following 2015’s ElationSiblings has been performed iteratively and internationally with humor, drama, and fierce song. Siblings’ MoMA PS1 staging in 2018 featured black-light messaging, countdown clocks, books on rope, and dancers adorned with swirling prints and LED lanterns. Self follows, in Haraway’s words, towards a “commitment to the finicky, disruptive details of good stories that don’t know how to finish.” Future performances will likely carry away in the best way.

Colin Self’s Siblings was released November 2, 2018 in limited vinyl and digital editions. Streaming also available (but you should buy it!)




  1. Story
  2. Foresight
  3. Survival
  4. Quorum ft. Aunt Sister
  5. Ante-Strategy
  6. Stay With The Trouble (For Donna)
  7. Emblem
  8. Transitions
  9. Research Sister
  10. Uncounted
  11. The Great Refusal

Album liner notes:


Story was the song that began the Siblings musical journey. As a kind of prologue to the opera, I thought about the word “story” itself as being conundrum folding into itself. The word had shortly thereafter become the word Instagram would use for what we quickly have come to know as “stories”, which felt far too similar to what we experienced with the company Amazon becoming “Amazon” – an imperative inquiry rose for me about the consequences of narrative power and how corporations were able to rapidly shift semantic meaning of names. What does it sound like to sonically fend for the rights of words? What unseen forces get to determine the use and misuse of language? If storytelling is one of the most vital tools we have for determining our reality, who do we want to give that power to? I believe that storytelling, in it’s rapid evolutionary abstraction and cooption, is under siege. It is then, perhaps, more than ever for us to greatly consider what stories tell stories, what thoughts think thoughts, what worlds world worlds. This is an anthem for urgent narrative agency to not let power remain in the hands of capitalism to drive us into global collapse.


Foresight was born from group singing and the life-changing experiences I’ve had in the communion of XHOIR practice.
It could seem impossible to bare witness to endless crimes against humanity and to the planet on a daily basis and still hold on to a thread of hope. Foresight came from attempting to understand how to forcefully push for a different narrative of our future by recognizing the use and abuse of mainstream medias to amplify and abuse stories of terror to drive narratives of fear-based thinking to the front of our attention simply for the sake of profit and control of public thought. In our newsfeeds and timelines we almost never see media outlets giving praise or regard to stories of resistance, stories of interdependence and cooperative action against atrocities, partially because if it became publicly encouraged by corporations to fight police, raid government buildings, and overthrow fascist leaders— well… I think you get the point here.
I’ve found refuge in trying to recognize the roots of fear-based thinking, the forces that accentuate these stories, and incentives of control and profit to perpetuate suffering. I believe we can create resistance to this by refusing these narratives together through action; living out and demonstrating an alternative that is rooted in altruistic, brave, interdependent (and troubled, challenging) logic.
The apocalypse is not a thriller. Ask any refugee of any species.
This is not hyperbole when I talk or sing about survival. I have had too many friends commit suicide or die of a drug overdose in my lifetime and I fear the potential of ever having to experience it again. So often, in queer spaces, as refugees or expats of worlds that wanted to destroy or kill us, we are forced into spaces where we are very legitimately are just trying to not die. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen stories of uncertainty unfold in front of me. Our queer families are not bound by bloodlines or the economic governmental support to creating lasting support to keep our places of communion alive for a lifetime, let alone a decade. I am terrified for the future of my loved ones scattered throughout earth, uncertain of how we can all stay alive as the world continues to decay our basic human rights.
Quorum ft. Aunt Sister
OK a little less depressing here… QUORUM is a word my friend and collaborator Martine Syms introduced me that means “the minimum amount of people required to have a meeting”
This track is the debut of Aunt Sister, the musical collaboration of Martine Syms and Diamond Stingily. I am HONORED and thrilled to have them together on this record. In 2016 Martine and Diamond sent me an hour-long video chat conversation the two of them had shared which became the initial inquiry into the sonic fabric of mutual loving friendship. The story deepened in 2017 when I brought Martine and Diamond into a studio to play around. It was around the same time I had began dialogue with Martine about investigating the voice and the capacity to shout, scream, laugh as vital parts of somatic expression. I realized while working on this song the incredible communion of prompting a friend with the permission or reason to just have fun with their voice beyond the confines or rules of what might register as “correct” ways of being. So often I am (and friends of mine are) “too much” in a public space. I am too loud, too femme, too faggy, whatever— in some form not sitting quietly amongst the status quo. It’s far too often I see friends of mine, especially black and brown friends, shushed in public or given stares for being “too much”. Quorum is, for me at least, a celebration of being loud having fun and creating joy together.
This track opens up with a poem co-written with two Belarusian artists Anastasia Kolas and Tanza Zaramoyana. The original ante-strategy was a song from a performance in 2015 called “31 Functions” in which an overlying theme of performance was about the co-existance, negotiation, and try/fail/try again/fail again reality of attempting political action or community organizing across cultural differences. I thought about this song as a kind of collage drawing together various asyncronatic phrases of potential, which don’t always fit together. Eventually we land at a drum and a screamed phrase, much like the ones ive memorized from attending various protests and anti-police demonstrations. The bass line kicks in and the energy begins to accumulate as the troublemakers get into formation to dance, scream, fight, etc.
A chord is struck and suddenly we are a group of strangers storming a wall of police officers together, potentially going to get tear gassed or arrested for our “ridiculous” display of resistance,  but then again, if the lives of other humans, (other siblings) are at risk, then what do we have to lose?
Stay With The Trouble (For Donna)
Ok now troublemakers let’s get in formation 😉 Stay with the trouble is a troublemakers anthem. It’s a song for energizing you and others to demonstrate political resistance, to break the glass of an evil corporate bank lobby, make your first mozeltov cocktail, or start a queer mosh pit in the basement or parking lot of a conservative christian town. Drive through the streets blasting this song with your ass hanging out the window. Burn the Confederate flag. Shit on the doorstep of a republican politicians home and light it on fire. Sometimes you just have to punch a nazi!
Beyond all of the aforementioned proposals for troublemaking, I dedicated this song to Donna Haraway for a different kind of trouble-making. Haraway, who has been a phenomenal influence throughout my teen and adult life, argues in her most recent book, that amongst our current global epidemic of destruction and domination, to stay with the trouble, for the survival of ecological diversity, and for the implementation of systems that require an interspecies becoming-with (and it’s not a metaphor). She regards thinking, critical thinking, as troublemaking, and I couldn’t agree more. We must think and work together, all whilst creating vital joy, to trouble the systems that seek to deny or destroy multispecies interdependence. Stay with the trouble, y’all!
Emblem is, if nothing else, a love song to queer and non-biological family. I’ve shared this list before but to do so again still doesn’t amount to express the immense gratitude I have for the many communities or spaces that have held me, helped me understand who I am, how to survive, how to learn and grow and love and make a life outside of heteronormative cis patriarchal means.  This song is for all the GNC femmes, queers trying on lipstick for the first time, butch dykes binding and shaving their heads, the emo lezzie who is contemplating moving out of her home town, the non-binary twelve year old who doesn’t know what will come next, the boi/gurl who loves being fat, femme, brown, queer and celebrating it amongst those who wouldn’t otherwise recognize their beauty. This song is for the loved ones who’ve died before this record came out who are hopefully listening in from the spirit world. This song is the story of what happens when you survive and find your people.
TransitiOOOOOOons!!!!!!! I owe this track, and it’s companion piece, Uncounted to Every Ocean Hughs, who’s words, writing, thinking, and living have been vastly informative through the years for me. I first encountered Every (once Emily) during their time with LTTR, a queer feminist art collective and publishing project, and eventually came to meet them IRL as an adult. Their book Uncounted was a hugely influential force in guiding Siblings and the narration of assembly. I often think of my queer family very much being related to a genealogy of thinking and language-making. Through the years I’ve found many texts, poems, and interviews where I recognized myself for the first time, often through queer language and communication methodologies that would seem illegible to the ineffectual eye or ear.
The process of working on these songs took years and years of drafting, thinking, changing, interlacing, re-naming, re-reading, investigating, dialogue, and laughing together. I have to perpetually ask:::: What is uncounted? Who is unseen and illegible, disregarded? Are we only registered or recognized if posed as a threat to a pre-existing power structure? In the margins I find you, the stories and realities that can never make it into published articles, fashion editorials, biennials, etc, because they are not considered legible or valuable or sensical. This is anthemic against a sovereign metric of value and worth. Transitions celebrates remaining forever in transition.
Research Sister
Research sister is a name I came up with for a kind of non-biological family member. I have a lot of research sisters. They yield threats to normalcy and share information as a form of care and radical resistance against sovereign power.
Lyra Pramuk is a research sister. In transition, we both excavate books, articles, poetry, images, and stories that quantify value for the unseen, unnamed, disregarded forms of living and loving on a damaged planet. Together we laugh hysterically at dinner time twirling into the language progress of developing joy and resistance forms together. Our curiosity and care binds us with each other and our familial timeline is marked by learning, discovery, and a negotiation of building language together. Meaning-making becomes an altruistic musical force of dialogue, encumbering doubt in the form of private exchange.
The research sister has no parents or offspring. They have no body or face but continue to live through the bodies of those willing to excavate resistance throughout their relationships by carefully guiding thinking and seeing toward the presence of curious compassion and altruistic vision.
Uncounted connects back to queer time; the reality that if you live a queer life without offspring or a single home your whole life you have a radically different measurement of days, hours, minutes, etc. Uncounted is as much a logic for undoing the fixed-ness of things as it is a kind of pointing toward that which has no measurement, no name, a wave beyond waves, a word that doesn’t exist, etc. There is no genealogical arrow bending into the future for queer family. Instead with queer time we have the present moment to cultivate love with kin knowing you will not have each other forever.
“beyond the will to measure”
“i believe you can make time”
i thought about these friendly phrases as negotiations with time and measurement. beyond the will to measure, imaginatively poses, to me, that there is something beyond the will to measure, name, value. This song is bookended by the laughter of Amanda-Peters-Gilmore, APG, a queer family member of mine over the years, who’s laughter has been nothing less then a magical bending of time and space. A powerful witch, her laughter has always felt like a portal, an opening into queer time.
The Great Refusal.
When I started on this immense journey to narrate the joy of queer family, I was naive to just how the years would unfold and how so much of my experience would come from my choice to make a solitary pursuit of my life out into the world, to depart from a secure life, community, and home in New York for the sake of knowing who I am within the whole.
I never would have thought that on the other side of it all, I would discover that these stories of non-biological family, queer kin, and familial love would become extremely troubled and emotional, ambivalent tales of trial and tribulation. Queer spaces and families are priced out, fizzle from internal conflict, and mutate into an irrecognizable new forms. I feel as though I am perpetually grieving and mourning these spaces and families and i carry onward with some kind of internal force guiding me to not give up even when I am alone and have seemed to lost the most valuable and secure places I once called “home”.
However, along this insane journey I am perpetually reminded that I will encounter loved ones along the way who will keep me alive, and I will, on beautiful days, get to reunite with the people I love and the spirits of those who have died too soon.
The Great Refusal is a moniker for the great uncertainty we have venturing out into the world as queer people, refusing systems, leaving worlds behind, and deciding to go elsewhere for the sake of survival. The Great Refusal is also the feeling of embarkment when you have to depart yet again, on your own, without your family, knowing that somewhere out there you will find the freaks, the glory of queer spaces and dance parties and dinner tables to sit and talk and laugh together and create some temporary joy. If it wasn’t for the strength and power my queer families have given me over the years, I wouldn’t be hopeful wandering the world trusting myself that I will find others and we will survive, together, as siblings.