EP REVIEW: Half Waif – form/a

Image Source: Bandcamp

Nandi Rose Plunkett, better known as Half Waif, has a talent for creating sensations as powerful as introspective beats. With her new EP, form/a, out on February 24th, she strikes up a compelling balance of the two with her combination of electronica and multi-instrumentation. To be put out via Cascine, this is the first of Half Waif’s to be released through a label, having put out two EPs and two albums herself.

But the Half Waif mastermind is no stranger to independence and determination. The daughter of a refugee and a child of divorce, she was always fiercely loved, but found herself thrust into independence at a young age. She also confesses a restlessness in her life and music, reflecting her lifelong endeavour to reconcile a sense of place. This atmosphere is matched in her music, which never fully falls into flow, closer to white water rafting than plain sailing.

Picture yourself sitting on a bench above a city skyline, streetlights flicking off as a winter’s sun rises. At feeling that never quite settles, a peace marred by the biting cold and the quite roar of the traffic below. This is the world that opening track ‘Severed Logic’ paints; one, as the lyrics tell, removed from the action. Planes filled with lethargic synths and vocals are shaken up by bursts of instrumentation.

Wave goes on to create an inner city, claustrophobic sound, huge pulses dominating Nandi’s whisper-thin vocals. This contrast highlights the fragility of the vocals, which in turn take a rare chance to dominate in following Magic Trick. Short and bittersweet at two minutes long, Magic Trick is home to beautiful imagery as Nandi sings: “I dissipate like fog in the morning”.

Endlessly changing, ‘Frost Burn’ is another track that refuses to settle; the title can give you hints as to the lack of balance. Pianos and delicacy are frequently over thrown by electronic clicks and pops, and may distract you from the lyrics hidden beneath; “I was fourteen when I had to learn what it means / Be an adult / It wasn’t my fault”. The restless search for home and the spirit of independence make it a stand out track.

‘Night Heat’ stumbles along so slowly it’s hard to believe it won’t grind to a halt. Whilst the instrumental takes a backseat, the vocals do their best to lead despite lacking the command to do so. This makes for a song that at first seems forgettable, albeit worth your attention on closer inspection. The same can be said for closing ‘Cerulean’, which has neither the power to end the EP with a bang, nor the subtly to end it with a whimper; this is the uncomfortable grey area that defines the EP.

It’s not an easy ride, but if you stick around for it, form/a is a beauty. Don’t necessarily expect to be blown away from the off, but pay attention and you’ll find all the personality of a fingerprint encased in it.

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