November 12, 2019
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.