How do you solve a problem like Ramona? Gonzalez that is, aka Nite Jewel, and the problem is one of consistency. Not in sound, no no – over the last few years she’s managed to very much carve out a space in the world of glacial synth-pop that occasionally thrills, alongside side-projects that tend to do the same with more frequency.
On Real High, Nite Jewel is doing it all for herself. And it starts off dreamily enough, with In The Nite and Had To Let Me Go being decent calling cards for anyone new to her work. There’s still that charming lack of gloss, a sort of semi-calculated fudge of the mix that gives it all a distinctly DIY approach.
Except that charm wears thin after a while. In that ramshackle world, things stop feeling organic – even those first two tracks seem to record a dissonance between voice and production, almost like someone’s singing over a karaoke backing. The beats are too clinical, too staid, and even when Gonzalez gives it a bit of vocal welly it’s the world around her that lets her down.
When it works, Real High is a joy. The Answer coos us into a trance, Who U R takes us to some sort of alternate dimension of R&B, and 2 Good 2 Be True is a wonder of a song. It’s arguably one of her best, and one that channels the fantasy beginnings of romance and translates them to a dreamlike expression of love and happiness. But dreamlike often veers into daydream, obfuscated by way too much artificiality on the title track and songs like Part Of Me. As a result it’s hard to fully embrace any sort of high with Nite Jewel when you can’t quite register the heart within her.