Summer is usually when I lighten up with my musical choices. I either want to hear dance music when exercising or chill music for lounging on the patio. For chill music, nothing fits the bill nowadays quite like R&B, the English variety that is, from artist like Jessie Ware in particular.
Increasingly, it seems that the slick Euro-styled R&B category is growing, and outside of the traditional base in the U.K. Case in point: Nite Jewel from California. How such a talent got by me for so long is unknown, but I just might have found my record of the summer with Nite Jewel’s Real High.
Nite Jewel is Ramona Gonzalez. Like Jessie Ware or Adele, Gonzalez makes the kind of slick R&B that takes it’s inspiration from slightly Eurocentric dance and pop music. Described as ‘dry ice’, the sound of Real High is expansive with the ambiance of a large cavern at times.
Gonzalez has been creating a kind of soul infused pop for nearly a decade. Only recently has she started leaning more towards R&B part. Her most recent LP dials up the Janet Jackson influence considerably. At times some of it passes for a Janet Jackson vocal stand in at moments (especially on the title track).
The Jackson influence comes in the form of a particularly cool laid back style of crooning. Combine that with Nite Jewel’s other influences (European EDM from bands like are Autechre) and you have a icy melody maker on par with Jessie Ware. Collaborators like Cole M.G.N. and Julia Holter only give serve to give Real High a more worldly appeal.
It’s the home grown influences however that define Nite Jewel’s sound on Real High. By taking the best of Janet’s vocal style and placing it in the same musical vocabulary of her British counterparts, Nite Jewel displays sophistication with a very focused set of songs. The vocals remain cool and relaxed with only the occasional display of range to indicate the potential of her voice. In many ways this kind of restraint (surrounded by electronic arrangements) gives her music a kind of sophistication I usually associate with Britsh R&B.
There are other influences that go beyond Nite Jewel’s initial influences, like the playful keyboard rift in “I Don’t Know” that could have come from early Depeche Mode or Vince Clarke. In an unfortunate concession to modern conventions, “R We Talking Long” features a rap cameo by Droop-E.
Aside from that, like a good chill record, Real High maintains a consistent mid-tempo sweet spot that recalls the best of ’80s and ’90s chill music. Even at it’s most hot and hyper as on “2 Good 2 Be True”, Real High keeps it’s cool.