On 27th November 2020, Philippe Cohen Solal and Mike Lindsay will release OUTSIDER, an EP of three astonishing pop songs from the forthcoming album of the same name, inspired by America’s most celebrated Outsider artist Henry Darger – whose lyrics written over 50 years ago, have been set to music for the first time and brought into the present day. Darger’s art has also been lovingly and faithfully reproduced across all the OUTSIDER visual assets.
OUTSIDER is the brainchild of Philippe Cohen Solal, the million-selling artist, producer and composer behind Gotan Project, who has been given exclusive, unprecedented access to Henry Darger’s life and works. He has brought together the Mercury Prize winning producer Mike Lindsay of acid folk group Tunng, to co-write and co-produce the album to be released in February 2021. They have brought in the acclaimed solo artist and composer Hannah Peel for the brass, strings and backing vocals that portray Darger’s child characters the Vivian girls, and Adam Glover for the lush, crooning lead vocals that reflect the inner voice of Darger himself through the original lyrics.
The EP contains three truly anthemic, timeless tracks of stunning beauty ‘Who Will Follow Angelinia’, ‘Hark Hark’, and ‘Bring Them In’, each with a magical touch of 1950s / 1960s Americana in keeping with the period that Darger created his epic work. The EP tracks ‘Who will follow Angelinia’ and ‘Hark Hark’ have powerful, accompanying lyric videos.
Meanwhile, ‘Bring Them In’ has an extraordinary animated video directed by Gabriel Jacquel inspired by Darger’s watercoloured panoramas, with art direction from Philippe Cohen Solal himself and Pascal Gary. The video features Adam Glover’s vocals singing Darger’s lyrics to save and keep safe the Vivian Girls, the heroines of Darger’s epic novels who are bravely marching against an enemy battalion of soldiers who wish to capture them.
The rich instrumentation and vocals that is, at times theatrical, nostalgic, magical and innocent, combine with Darger’s lyrics and storytelling to spirit the listener away into panoramic, water-coloured sonic vistas. Solal and Lindsay have brought together their towering musical talents to create rolling emotional strings, anthemic horns and soaring symphonies, adding melodies via vintage guitars, warped tape loops, synths and children’s instruments. Immersing themselves in Darger’s inner world, Solal and Lindsay have created a new musical dimension, taking us on a journey into Darger’s imagination; the ‘Realms of the Unreal’.
Philippe Cohen Solal said “I first came across Henry Darger’s work in 2003, and it has stayed with me ever since. I feel I know Darger. So many years I’ve been reading his books and living with his work and words. I feel connected because of the kind of child he was. He had a terrible childhood, really traumatising. When I was a child, I thought I was crazy. I really did. Everybody thought he was crazy, for real. The outside world was pretty mean to Darger when he was young and I relate it to what is happening to the world now. OUTSIDER has been five years in the making and it’s been a real labour of love. I’m so excited to work with Mike, Hannah and Adam to finally share the magic of Darger in musical form with the world.”
Mike Lindsay said “The music we created for OUTSIDER sounds like a very twisted long forgotten musical, with an evil twist and a very innocent blanket wrapped around it. I don’t know where it fits into contemporary music but it’s classic, it’s beautiful and it’s experimental.”
Hannah Peel said “You’d think the way he was writing, he’d gone to Woodstock on a crazy trip and then gone to church to cleanse his soul. He was a janitor but it’s like he had about ten different past lives, and ten future lives … Musically, it’s more resonant than ever. It’s really energetic and full and so full of hope and beauty and I think that’s really important with what we’ve all been through over this last year.”
Henry Darger’s works were only truly discovered by the world after he died in 1973 in Chicago. Darger, who had a traumatic childhood of neglect and lived his adult life as a reclusive hospital janitor and dishwasher, shocked the art world when his landlord Nathan Lerner discovered that Darger was a prolific visual artist and epic novelist. Over 300 pieces of art were discovered in Darger’s apartment, including unpublished 15,000-page fantasy novel, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, and 8,500 page follow-up, Further Adventures of the Vivian Girls in Chicago, and several hundred panoramic illustrations. Darger’s remarkable visual works, much like his stories, depict a fantasy universe where innocent and valiant child heroes battle against malevolent foes. Darger has been the subject of many documentaries and movies and his works, which are exhibited across the world in Chicago, New York, Paris and Tokyo, sell for millions. – Emma Warren