Nandi Rose Plunkett writes, records and performs under the name Half Waif. Her music embodies her pensive nature and her lifelong endeavor to reconcile a sense of place. Raised in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Nandi was the daughter of an Indian refugee mother and an American father of Irish/Swiss descent. Growing up she listened to everything from Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos, to Celtic songstress Loreena McKennitt and traditional Indian bhajans. In college she studied classical singing and became engrossed with the works of Olivier Messiaen and Claude Debussy. Her output as Half Waif reflects these varying influences, resulting in a richly layered collage of blinking electronic soundscapes, echoes of Celtic melodies and the elegiac chord changes of 19th-century art music.
Half Waif has self-released two EPs and two albums – including 2016’s Probable Depths, which caught the attention of the worldwide music media, with NPR singling out track ‘Turn Me Around’ and Pitchfork awarding it their coveted Best New Track distinction. In 2017, Half Waif joined the Cascine family to release her form/a EP – a collection of tracks that expanded on her exploration of placemaking and home, and that earned her acclaim from a wide range of culture critics. In the same year, Cascine reissued Probable Depths, giving the album its first ever vinyl pressing. Half Waif also spent 2017 on near constant tour, supporting artists such as Julien Baker, Iron & Wine, Land Of Talk and Mitski. This year, Half Waif will release her latest body of work: a new album titled Lavender, due for spring release on Cascine. Nandi shared the following on the album:
Lavender is so named for my grandmother Asha – a nod to the lavender she would pluck from her garden and boil in a pot on the stove. The first time I noticed her doing this, it struck me as a kind of magic: the small black cauldron bubbling with a piece of the earth. She did it to make the house smell good. I believe it was also a ritual of purification, clearing out any shadows that may have tried to creep into the old English home she’d lived in, alone, for fifty years.
When I wrote and recorded Lavender, my grandmother was alive, and though she wasn’t ill at the time of her sudden death in September, it was obvious her life – after 95 years – was drawing to a close. As a result, themes of aging and collapse are all over this album. It is an elegy to time, the pilgrimages we take, and the ultimate slow plod towards our end. It is an examination of the way we fracture, inside ourselves and inside our relationships – the fissures that creep along the structures we build, the tendency towards disintegration.
We face many endings in our lives, on the path toward that unfathomable yet omnipresent ultimate Ending. Break-ups and divorces, marriages and the estrangement of the self, hard times and bittersweet relief, steep precipices that rise up beyond our control over and over again. These endings are markers of time and growth, small personal apocalypses that pockmark our days. And yet there is more to come when the terror subsides; even the night itself – that great darkness – must end and give way to new light. Lavender is a talisman to hold in the midst of that uncertainty, to heal and remind ourselves that it’s not over. It’s not ending yet.
Half Waif’s Lavender was co-produced by David Tolomei and mastered by Heba Kadry. It launches April 27, 2018 on Cascine.