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Kawehi is different from the soulless drab that clogs the airwaves, and the focus-group tested artists that make up the popular music charts. Instead she’s an indie artist that has been diligently working to get where she is today. A bright and shining beacon of talent in a genre that has been often associated with mass-produced vapidity and forgetfulness. “Robot Heart” EP is an independently produced, and released EP that comes on the back of a series of successful cover song videos that have been setting the internet (and particularly Vimeo and YouTube) alight over the last months. Kawehi writes electronically charged soulful pop songs that sound just a tad different than most.

Where a lot of contemporary pop music is produced by a battery of producers, songwriters and engineers with little to no involvement from the performing artist – Honolulu, Hawaii born Kawehi writes, produces and sings all of her own songs. That indie spirit and hands-on approach not only makes Kawehi appealing to those outside of the clutches of mainstream music, it makes her just more honest and deserving altogether. Prior to releasing “Robot Heart” Kawehi cut a number of singles, demos and independent EPs before reaching a zenith with “Songs From My Apartment”. The “Songs From My Apartment” EP, which pretty much sells what it says on the tin – gave her a footing to come into her own as a budding young songwriter, and it was the first to reach a wider audience as it received some favorable press on its release. Currently living in Lawrence, Kansas with her musician husband (who produces most of her internet videos), things have been slowly falling in place for Kawehi, and “Robot Heart” should provide her a breakthrough a larger audience. If anything, the songs and keen sense for memorable hooks are definitely accounted for. “Robot Heart” is driven by a warm, pulsating electronic beat that lives up rather splendidly to the EP’s title. Despite the wholly electronic nature of Kawehi’s songs they are never without a heart, or a soul.

As a runner up to the EP she produced a number of cover songs to draw attention to her Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. These include but are not limited to her viral hit ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ (Nirvana), 'Fake Plastic Trees' (Radio Head), ‘Closer’ (Nine Inch Nails) and ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ (Gotye).  “Robot Heart” is a charming little EP filled with heartwarming electro soul, similar to the material Timbaland produced for late r&b star Aaliyah. In its more electronic material it sometimes borders on a soulful, more danceable interpretation of Nine Inch Nails’ “Pretty Hate Machine”. Soul is what binds this EP together, and its genre of choice. It isn’t the only sound it goes for, however, and that’s one of its strengths, Kawehi doesn’t limit herself to any genre, and just chooses whatever works best for the song in question.  Electronica, soul, rock – it’s all here, and it all flows together seamlessly. Kawehi makes it all sound so effortless, yet there’s a surprising amount of depth to her songs besides just being catchy, groovy and soulful.

Kawehi has a wonderfully warm but fragile voice that holds the middleground between Mandy Moore, Taylor Swift and Colbie Callait. That the music she writes to accompagny her is so minimal works wonders for her angelic voice. That isn’t to say that her songs are written around her vocals, both work in service of each other and the songs more than anything else. It isn’t as vocal-centric as a lot of popular mainstream music tends to be, and that’s a nice change of pace. Nothing on this EP is an afterthought, and even the interludes ‘Interwebs’, ‘Human Condition’ and ‘Droid Dance’ serve a purpose as they form introductory moodsetting segues to each of the original songs. The title track works around a simple electronic beat, some synthesizers and a few vocal tracks. The lyrics use the metaphor of computer paraphernalia as a metaphor for infatuation and feeling in love. The track flows seamlessly into the interlude ‘Interwebs’, which in turn sets the mood for the touching soulful ballad ‘Like Her’. This is the kind of soul (or r&b) that isn’t heard too much anymore on the radio. Its simplicity is its greatest forte. The second half of the EP, starting with ‘0s and 1s’, is more electronic compared to the first half – and somewhat reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails’ “Pretty Hate Machine” or Moby's early dance material (around the time of 'Go') that way.

Given the dire state of popular music at any given time, it is unfortunate that actual gifted songwriters, such as young hopefuls Kawehi and Polaris Rose, are forced to work outside of the industry. As always the indie artists are the ones who hold the true potential to become future superstars. Not being bound by any one genre, or limited by any of its tropes and conventions, Kawehi’s “Robot Heart” has something for everybody, and is highly recommended as such. Since this is only an EP one can assume that Kawehi is currently working on a full length comprising of songs like these. The EP flows well, and each of the songs are placed perfectly, and even the skippable interludes don’t detract too much from the meat of the EP. It could be argued that the EP is a bit too short of a teaser to truly get a feel for Kawehi’s electronic soul. Nevertheless, for a conceptual undertaking that was home-produced and independently marketed this is absolutely fantastic in both content and production. If Kawehi continues to expand her horizons and evolve musically, she’s bound to breakthrough to the general mainstream popular music consciousness. It’s all here. It just needs some additional finetuning to unlock its underlying potential. Open your heart to Kawehi and let her “Robot Heart” stir yours.

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For their fifth album the Belgian “blackened horde” of Enthroned knew that all bets were off. After the debacle that was “Armoured Bestial Hell” the band needed to come back with a bang – and a number of facts played in their advantage. They had signed a new recording contract with Austrian label Napalm Records, they had enrolled a new drummer in Yann Herrera (Alsvid, from French act Seth) and were set to record at Spidersound Studio in Berlin with famed metal producer Harris Johns (Helloween, Immolation, Kreator, Sodom, Tankard). This was the band’s most important album since their debut, and with a stable label partner and a new skinsman Enthroned were poised to finally take their place in the black metal underground. Did they? Yes, in fact. This is the most potent album they have put on the market since “The Apocalypse Manifesto”.

In many ways this is a return-to-form for a band that has always been a second-tier at best. Clearly the addition of Herrera on drums lit a fire under the band as this is their most violent, their most concise and most focused effort since “The Apocalypse Manifesto” and “Towards the Skullthrone Of Satan”. Many things that fell to the wayside on the previous mockery have been duly corrected. All songs are blisteringly fast, blast-oriented cuts with the band’s patented melodies, the worthwhile leads/solos and Lorent’s thundering bass guitar. Lorent’s vocals are as comical and intense as ever, but his performance is far more spirited and violent here. It feels like he is screeching his lungs out. One wonders how he is able to speak after such a hellish performance.

enthronedThe writing style recalls the stronger aspects of the band’s earlier works, namely the unanimously savage “Towards the Skullthrone Of Satan” while the eerie melodies of “The Apocalypse Manifesto” feature more prominently again, which is a plus. Herrera’s drumming is precise, war-like and varied, which is everything this band could ever hope for. In his first of three recording ventures with this band, Yann Herrera is simply the best Enthroned drummer since the studio session drumming of Da Cardoen half a decade prior. Ever so slightly Enthroned’s thrash metal past resurfaces here, but it would not fully come to blossom until the next album. Overall this album takes a hint of Enthroned’s past and runs with it to its logical, modern day conclusion. It’s savage, utterly relentless and an endurance test for all involved, but after the unanimous debacle that was “Armoured Bestial Hell” the only way was up. The band understood its predicament and sought to right itself and return to its past, second-tier glory.

Hinted already on the unmitigated disaster that was their last album, Enthroned here experiments with atmospheric tracks sparingly. ‘Land Of Demonic Fears’ is the most atmospheric thing the band has done since ‘Hertogenwald’ and ‘Evil Church’ on “Towards the Skullthrone Of Satan”. The odd chord progressions, technical riffing and overall more complex song structures of the maligned “Armoured Bestial Hell” make a return, but the songs are better structured and clearly written to the band’s strengths. ‘Diabolic Force’ is a re-recording of an old Morbid Death song, but fits well with the band’s improved and revised sound. Even the addition of choirs doesn’t hurt the picture. For a band as notably conservative and traditional as this, it is a welcome surprise. Not only does the band sound more sophisticated – finally we are getting what they have always promised. It took them five albums, but it is here. Enthroned is at long last living up to whatever little potential they possessed when they formed many years ago. While this is merely a proof-of-concept for the next and much better album “Carnage In Worlds Beyond” is beyond the obvious more ambitious and musical than anything. The band want to prove something to the listener and they succeed with flying colors.

The biggest improvement however is the production work of thrash guru Harris Johns. At once both earthly and organic but also digital and crisp “Carnage In Worlds Beyond” is the best sounding Enthroned record in years. The better song material benefits immensely from this treatment. It is fairly easy to overlook how generic and trite this band actually sounds thanks to the wonderful job behind the console by Johns. Next to the production the whole album exudes professionalism and seriousness. The artwork, design and lay-out are superb, the photography is extremely well done and the record just looks like an actual real product. Slick, glossy and ready to be grabbed off the shelves. Maybe it was the benevolent influence of new contractor Napalm Records?

“Carnage In Words Beyond” is the third and final chapter in a post-apocalypse themed three-album cycle. It deals with the infernal dominion brought on by the “apocalyptic revelations” after the cataclysmic events of “The Manifesto”.  The lyrics are getting increasingly better and more eloquent, which is probably due to the overwhelming creative force that is lead guitarist Régis Lant. Lant had been the creative force behind Enthroned at least for one album prior to this, and the first signs of more philosophical and theological interests start to seep through in the lyrics. There would be one more album in the style present here, before Lant took full control of the band he had been leading behind the scenes for a number of years by then. The sixth Enthroned album would be their ultimate statement and the last to feature long-time frontman Franck Lorent. Now that the band had unlocked its potential, something had to give…