Nandi Rose Plunkett channels her heritage generically and thematically on the rousing Lavender.
Nandi Rose Plunkett, aka Half Waif, self-released a whopping three E.P's and two album's prior to her latest full-length offering, Lavender, released this week via Cascine. In an age where record labels are helpful but no longer a necessity to artists with a compulsion to create and share music, five significant self-releases is still quite unusual.
Plunkett's pluck and unwavering streak of independence is something that also comes through in her music when you hear it. She bellows "I do what I want" in 'Torches' - the leading single from the LP, accompanied by a strident electronic drum pattern and melody-matching synthesizer. It's not all bombast though, Lavender is interwoven with tender coos and calls heard on the softly layered 'Keep It Out’, where Plunkett's vocal character flips between dreamy and a tribal multi-voiced chant.
Growing up in the small town of Williamstown Massachusetts, as one of the town’s only non-white residents, Plunkett is the daughter of an Indian refugee mother and an American father of Irish descent. Known to have been raised on an eclectic musical diet of Celtic folk, Joni Mitchell and traditional Indian bhajans - for Plunkett, her heritage is imprinted and seemingly channelled into her music both generically and thematically. Lavender, after all, was named for her maternal grandmother, Asha, who had a penchant for growing and picking the flowering plant renowned for it soothing herbal remedy use.
Soothing and somehow cleansing is the effect of Plunkett's voice and percussive arrangements to the listener. It's here that her heritage of Celtic folk and Indian bhajans really mesh into Half Waif's own signature. In an essay, Plunkett wrote to accompany the release of Lavender she discusses the sudden passing of her 95-year-old grandmother as a pervasive influence whilst creating the album. The themes of "ageing and collapse" are dotted all over Lavender as the songs fall in on themselves throughout, mostly mid-track, only to be revived once again.
On Lavender, Nandi Rose Plunkett strives for and evokes the kind of magic she witnessed her grandmother create whilst boiling her freshly cut Lavender in "the small black cauldron”. Seemingly to clear away the shadows of the very old English house she'd lived in alone for fifty years. Plunkett both simultaneously embalms and purifies the listener on Lavender, a talent she surely inherited from the lady who inspired her latest work.