By Cameron Grieves
“form/a” is an experimental pop EP, released in early April, laced with electronic synth and chamber music elements that expands upon artist Nandi Rose Plunkett’s sense of home.
Raised in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Plunkett is the daughter of an Indian refugee mother and an American father, and her artistic style is often representative of the way she straddles these different cultural worlds in her own life.
When she is not touring as a member of Pinegrove, Plunkett releases solo-work under the artist name Half Waif, “form/a” already being her fifth release in just a few short years.
The sound of “form/a” continues Plunkett’s tradition of synthesizing disparate musical styles in order to create a more transient sound that parallels her mother’s journey as a refugee.
In this latest EP, Plunkett really opens up lyrically and offers the listener insight into her own
experiences being a child between two worlds, growing up in an almost entirely white town in rural Massachusetts, but still maintaining that connection with her maternal culture.
“How can I make myself uncomfortable without getting caught up in the overflow? / I’ve been treading quietly, carefully, not willing to be vulnerable – but isn’t it time?” Plunkett sings in “Cerulean,” the final track of the six-song EP.
Vulnerability is a pervasive theme throughout “form/a” – the ability to be open to new ideas, to the concept of accepting yourself for living outside of the norm.
Plunkett’s voice maintains a consistently classical, sad tone that fades in and out of the distorted electronic soundscape, sometimes contrasting with but often intermixing well with the twinkly, deeply synth-laden bass.
“Wave” begins with jarring drum beats that transform gradually into an airy, dream-like wall of sound that becomes indistinguishable with Plunkett’s soft vocal melody.
There is also an undercurrent of anxiety and doubt that runs through the EP. Plunkett often makes veiled references to loss – the fear of losing her mother, and the connection to her own cultural roots that she represents.
“And every person begins to age. / Will you be here tomorrow? / I hope you’ll be, or else say forgive me if I am gone like fog in the morning-time,” Plunkett sings in “Magic Trick.”
The “magic trick” the title of the song alludes to is the suddenness of death. Even though as people age, death becomes more and more likely – the act of dying is still a sudden and shocking event.
“Frost Burn” is the most haunting and well-constructed song on the EP, utilizing sparse piano melodies and deceptively personal pop hooks to craft an immersive piece that serves as the emotional pinnacle of the EP.
The song builds in electronic tension before unraveling and building up again, perfectly balancing classical instrumental and lyrical influences with modern electronic techniques.
“I had a dream and I wasn’t me in it and I was OK with that,” Plunkett sings in the opening lines of the song – highlighting the migratory nature of her own identity as an artist and as the daughter of a refugee.
As Half Waif, Plunkett seeks to reconcile the differences within herself in search of her own identity – one that is built upon the restlessness and homelessness of her mother’s own identity as a refugee.
Although it is a continual process, “form/a” begins piecing together this cohesive identity by re-examining elements of the artist’s past, and leaving the listener with one imperative thought – that it is OK to be vulnerable with oneself and it is OK to not fully understand oneself.