At first glance, the idea of bedroom dance music seems almost contradictory. After all, what good is a beat without a crowded floor on which to exploit it? Dig a little deeper, though, and it turns out that clubland’s darkened interiors and anonymous throngs are indeed lonely places, making dance far more introspective than any casual observer would ever expect. Los Angeles resident Ramona Gonzalez understands this paradox all too well, so much so that the tracks she cooks up as Nite Jewel harness moody beatscapes as they move away from the floor, through open doors and out into the humid black.
On the surface, the 10 tracks that make up Gonzalez’s full-length debut Good Evening come from familiar places, her rudimentary drum machine loops and overall song structures channeling the likes Debbie Deb and Lisa Lisa with equal aplomb. But whereas those ’80s sensations sang over skeletal tracks that implied a cool, airy distance, Gonzalez’s dedication to 8-track recording technology and its inherent limitations makes for a far more intimate affair, as songs like “Artificial Intelligence” effortlessly merge delicate beats and swirling synths with Gonzalez’s airy voice.
All things considered, then, it’s no real surprise that Nite Jewel has collaborated with members of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, as both groups use roughly the same methods to approach different eras of pop music. But more than just aping the sounds of pop stars gone by, Nite Jewel also manages to incorporate more introspective and distinctly left-field elements of all eras of dance. Tracks like “Weak for Me” imply more than a bit of Arthur Russell, be it in the starry-eyed vocals, or in the way Gonzalez manages to craft something deeply moving and memorable out of deceptively simple elements.
Therein lies the power of this understatedly great debut – in avoiding a simple homage to sounds that came and went a couple of decades ago, Gonzalez managed to imbue her music with a greater historical perspective. Understanding not only the place of pop hits but also the underground sounds that rose as a response, Nite Jewel’s Good Evening slinks by on the strength of understated pieces like “What Did He Say,” shuffling along with presets that, while originating in a wholly different era, still manage to sound remarkably of our time.