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.