Philippe Cohen Solal and Mike Lindsay have released their brand-new album OUTSIDER on now on ¡Ya Basta! Records. Ten astonishing, heart-soaked pop songs, inspired by America’s most celebrated Outsider artist Henry Darger.
OUTSIDER, an album of lush, twisted 1950s/60s Americana with stunning, vintage analogue instrumentation transports the listener into panoramic realms, gifting incredible instant-classic songs such as ‘Who Will Follow Angelinia’, ‘Hark Hark’, ‘Bring Them In’, ‘Can A Boy Forget His Mother?’, ‘851 Webster Avenue’ and ‘Scattering The Fierce Foeman’.
The album is a musical and visual extrapolation of Darger, his obsession with the weather, his tormented Christian faith, deceptively naive paintings and lyrics to songs, that were never before set to music.
OUTSIDER has been five years in the making and the brainchild of Philippe Cohen Solal, the million-selling artist, producer and composer who co-founded Gotan Project. Solal has been given exclusive, unprecedented access to Henry Darger’s estate comprising lyrics, poems and visual art and has brought together an epic collaboration with Mike Lindsay from acid folk group Tunng, Hannah Peel and the vocals of Adam Glover.
Darger was a reclusive hospital janitor, whose epic fantasy novels and visual artwork set the art world aflame upon its posthumous discovery. Darger’s work now exhibits around the world, changes hands for close to a million dollars and has admirers among artists including Grayson Perry, the Chapman brothers and musicians like Nick Cave, David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart.
Solal and Lindsay co-wrote and co-produced all the tracks, with acclaimed solo artist and composer Hannah Peel on brass, strings and backing vocals to portray Darger’s child characters, the Vivian girls, and Adam Glover bringing the lush, crooning lead vocals, that conjur up Scott Walker and reflect the inner voice of Darger himself through the original lyrics. Mixed by Grammy-award winning Andrew Scheps (Adele, Beyonce, Lana Del Rey).
The lyrics of Darger were written over 50 years ago and now for the first time OUTSIDER brings together the extraordinary world of Darger to the modern day in sound and vision. The songs shimmer around the edges of altered states, luxuriously swelling through classic 1950s microphones, like Scott Walker at a pagan festival, music textured with mid-century Americana, under-the-radar found sound and hard weather. It’s PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ orchestrated by Ennio Morricone in an illustrated world peopled by angels, valiant children, marching battalions, and vast, colourful landscapes depicting all of the above.
‘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 aka Phormazero.
Speaking about the album, creator 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. The outside world was pretty mean to him when he was young and I relate it to what is happening to the world now: with autocrats and mean people We call him an ‘outsider artist’ but he was very inside himself – and he created a whole world inside. OUTSIDER has been five years in the making and it’s been a real labour of love. I imagined Adam’s luxurious, fantastically powerful and beautiful voice being the voice inside Henry’s head, the projection of himself to be stronger, more powerful.”
Mike Lindsay said “The music we created for OUTSIDER sounds like a late 1950s and early 1960s production, with this contemporary twisted, textured edge to it, somehow making it sound quite timelessI 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.”
OUTSIDER’s reflection of what it means to make art, isolated in one room has taken on extra relevance when so many of us are living in small spaces under lockdown. Philippe and his band of musicians have taken Darger’s questions of isolation, imagination and a David and Goliath fight against evil and turned them into the strangest, yet most beautiful lullabies you’ll ever hear.