HALF WAIF *CANCELLED*
with Ian Chang
Downstairs, All Ages
DOORS: // SHOW:
Tuesday October 13, 2020
Nandi Rose is on her own again, and three songs into her forthcoming album The Caretaker, the singer, songwriter and producer declares her fearlessness: “Baby don’t worry about me, I don’t worry about you.” The words fall away from her breathlessly, unfolding with grace and force: "I've got places in my mind that I'll never find if you're holding my hand like you always do." Here, on “Ordinary Talk,” Rose meditates on the heaviness of ordinary moments, the constellation of tears and chores and self-doubt and small talk that comprise being a person, accompanied by her most cinematic, pulsing arrangements to date.
It’s an apt introduction to The Caretaker, a vessel for Rose’s stories and observations that negotiates the space between working alone and with others, between isolation and connection. The result is her boldest work yet. For Half Waif, The Caretaker is a statement of intent in high resolution, a deliberate move from the obscured, muted mystery of her previous work. And there Rose is on the album’s cover—her sharp image before a brilliant blue storm, staring you right in the eye.
An eleven-song journey through mind, memory and home, The Caretaker finds Rose astutely observing inward and outwardly, picking apart what it means to take care—of herself, partners, friends, family—and the shared pain that comes with that. The utterly crushing “In August” circles on the harsh fade of a crumbling friendship and the particular type of pain that comes with it. “I have lost your friendship / what does that say about me?” wonders Rose over a spare chord progression. Amid slowly swelling layers of synths and drum machines, her elastic and expressive voice shifts and takes off towards soaring and searching falsetto, as she grasps for meaning in turmoil.
The more bittersweet side B is made of candid, slow-burning piano ballads that chronicle the passing of time. Rose’s voice sometimes sounds like a choir of one, like on “Blinking Light,” where she self-harmonizes in a billowing cloud of her own voice. “Blinking light in the black hills / if this doesn’t change me, nothing will,” she wonders. “But give me ‘til the end of June. / I’ll be better with the weather.” Time slips by, mistakes are internalized, messages go unread. Relationships dissolve. She bids goodbye to her 29th year.
The Caretaker follows Lavender, Rose’s debut, named for the lavender that once grew in her grandmother’s garden. And on her most recent collection, Rose’s
family history and intergenerational stories continue to seep their way into the songs. “There’s a family legacy of losing and seeking homes, a theme
that has followed me,” she reflects, pointing to her mother’s journey as an Indian refugee from Uganda and her grandmother’s displacement from Lahore
after the partition of India. “Growing up, being half-Indian was a point of pride for me. It made me feel different in a good way,” adds Rose, who
was raised surrounded by the Berkshire mountains in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
属 Belonging, Ian Chang’s first full-length album, is like a cyborg - part purring mechanism, part animate bio-mass rising from primordial ooze. In nine concise, largely instrumental pop songs, Chang conjures a personal cosmos: the listener feels as if we might reach out and touch Belonging's jagged and tender aural sculptures. At every level, his music sings with earnest and deceptive simplicity. The album's melodies are intimate, its rhythms rewarding, and yet, just beneath the surface glimmers innovation, as if the neurons firing in each melodic idea have become audible. From the tradition of Bjork, Burial, and Flying Lotus, Chang breathes a new kind of human vulnerability into electronica.
Chang's magic starts with his method: from an improvised foundation of sampled percussion, he follows the innate logic of a musical conversation, allowing
his compositional forms to reveal themselves. The album's three vocal features - KAZU (Blonde Redhead), Kiah Victoria and Hanna Benn - weren’t anticipated
at the project's outset; they arose like friendships, unpredictably complex and increasingly rare, a consequence of Chang's ubiquitous receptivity.
Whereas on his EP Spiritual Leader (2017) Chang limited himself to capturing unedited performances without overdubs, on this release the percussionist
expands his palate, burrowing deeper into a layered, symphonic subconscious. Consequently, Chang's formidable growth as a producer is on display. Reflecting
the album's bottom-up, performance-as-composition construction, his music conveys an intuitive sense of wholeness, carrying its experimental ethos
without pretense. The resulting album unfolds like a confessional exploration, complicating the lines between rhythm and melody, modernity and antiquity,
exuberance and meditation.