Kawehi JAMS OUT all-electric, passionately mournful take on “Fake Plastic Trees”
I’ve heard some people refer to it as “looping.” You don’t need a band, you don’t need frivolous bandmates, annoying or unreliable guitarists, or easily-distractable accompaniment. You don’t need to worry about shitty equipment, broken drumheads, pointless pianos or the cumbersome stringed instruments and tools that other musicians rely on. All a skilled “looper” needs is a computer and an understanding of recording and repeating tracks. Based in Lawrence, Kansas, a musician named Kawehi has been weaving some badass looped covers and originals for a while now, and she suddenly leaped to the front of my musical subconscious recently with her cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” and her take on Trent Reznor’s “Closer”, a song historically controversial in its explicit sexuality and aggression.
Reznor made a name for himself by subverting all the expectations for progressive rock music by threading his beats and harmonies through various levels of feedback and effects, testing the limits of sonic potential through the moniker Nine Inch Nails. The song “Closer” turned heads by being harsh and pointedly sexual; probably uncomfortably so for the conservative masses who are afraid to talk about such things, particularly with the line about “bringing me closer to God.” With her cover videos, Kawehi bobs and spins and dances as the videos progresses. She is always alone in a minimally furnished room, with a couple chairs, an unfinished brick wall in the background, and studio-quality equipment. It’s hard to tell from this perspective what exactly she’s doing to create her remarkable sound, but it’s easy for even the casual listener to tell that her mastery of the digital recording instrument is better than average.
All Kawehi needs is a keyboard hooked to a synth, an odd-looking platform whose name I am unfamiliar with, a computer, and her silky sexy voice. Oh yeah, and an electric guitar (unfortunately, in this video, not the hot pink electric guitar which she grabbed toward the end of the video for “Closer”) for just a few awesome aural embellishments. It doesn’t hurt that she is unbelievably beautiful, and that she exudes joy and passion in her performance. She hit it big, and so far, that success hasn’t slowed her down. Presented here is her video cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” a song bemoaning the frustration, boredom, and frustration of suburbia and settling down. It’s almost as if she is itching to free herself from her skin, that the passion and energy of her music can just barely be contained. The lyrics paint a portrait of a plasticized, cumbersome reality that leaves the female protagonist itching, nearly screaming to break free.
It is a song about the toil and torture of time, of commitment and passion prolonged in the long term. Kawehi’s voice soars as she imitates and enhances the indescribable voice of Thom Yorke, soaring over the scales and up and down registers as effortlessly as a ghost. Radiohead has impressed for years with their mournful, unbelievable arena-rock masterpieces, and their sonically innovative and indescribably genius recordings. This is a fitting tribute to one of their early classics, and Kawehi hits it out of the park. Her voice is passionate, powerful, and uplifting, and I am hopelessly irretrievably smitten by it. Absolutely, indescribably, unforgettably powerful and inspiring.