Release Date: May 5, 2017
Record label: Gloriette
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
Through her solo electronic project Nite Jewel, Ramona Gonzalez has always drawn inspiration from both underground pioneers such as The Orb and more mainstream sounds like Debbie Deb and Lisa Lisa. On each of her albums, starting with her addictively offbeat debut Good Evening, the Los Angeles songwriter and producer has evolved by finding new ways to combine these worlds. Real High, her fifth full-length, out on Gonzalez's own Gloriette label, is the first to truly foreground her pop side.
Ramona Gonzalez, better known as Nite Jewel, defies the mold. Artists in her lane, with an instantly recognizable sound, sometimes saddled with the dreaded "chillwave" tag, tend to burn bright, and burn fast, flashes in the pan, a hyped debut and then...well, not much more. Gonzalez, on the other hand, has steadily, perhaps somewhat quietly, been building a career meant to weather changing tides, growing as a songwriter all the while.
It's a familiar conundrum. An artist gets signed, brimming with talent and restless ambition, but must sacrifice their creative integrity to satisfy a host of internal label pressures. Ramona Gonzalez, aka Nite Jewel, has been one of the most recent and memorable casualties of this decades' long process: her 2012 album One Second of Love was bathed in a sugary pop aesthetic that didn't quite align with Gonzalez's personal vision, a fact she has gone on record to explain many times.
It's easy enough to figure out dates and events from the distant past, but it's near impossible to understand what it felt like to be alive then. Geographer David Lowenthal has a succinct way of describing this: "The past is a foreign country. " In her work under the nom de pop Nite Jewel, Ramona Gonzalez has always explored the past like a sensory historian, writing songs that use the familiar elements of sweet-as-acid synth-pop and late-night infomercial house without directly imitating them.
Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez has long trafficked in her own very particular brand of minimalist, synth-based lo-fi R&B. It's exactly the kind of sound you would expect from someone plunking away in the bedroom for hours on end after having been raised on a steady diet of '80s and '90s R&B of the slightly more melancholic variety. With Real High, she largely retains her well-established formula, having tweaked only the fidelity to ensure plenty of room for each and every element to be heard in its fullest and greater ease of access and immediacy.
Nite Jewel , born Ramona Gonzalez, channels pop and R&B from the ’80s and ’90s in her music like she's making demos for a chart takeover. But her production has always felt too blown-out and noodly to be straightforward pop music: She developed her sound among the ranks of L.A. synth-pop experimentalists like Ariel Pink and Julia Holter, and her often-lo-fi recordings are murky and reticent when compared with the work of the R&B divas she seems to idolize.