Nite Jewel, the recording project of Ramona Gonzalez, returned from her four-year absence this year with a new solo single, “Kiss the Screen.”
The glossy, New Wave pop song sounded warm as ever as she sang about computer love for the 2010s.
Her new album, Liquid Cool, though, musically reflects more of the emotional distance one can feel from a screen-to-screen relationship. The punchy melodies match the slicker production of her previous effort, One Second of Love from 2012, but the reserved, dissociated tone of Gonzalez’s voice on record may be closer to the even older, lo-fi records she first gained recognition.
Liquid Cool changed into a whole different record on the Soda Bar stage last Thursday. Witnessing Gonzalez perform her late-night pop songs with her band added more live personality to the love-torn character on record. She was not so the imagined shy artist often associated with a bedroom pop project but more a musician whose technology could only do so much to communicate her big feelings.
While filters and reverb slightly drowned out her messages on record, she immediately grabbed attention up on stage. Her opening lines — “we could talk all night long, if we knew each other” — of “Boo Hoo” sounded not as a sign of giving up but a tease of the big love she’s ready to give had the two crossed paths.
If Gonzalez wasn’t singing, the fat bass lines were doing the talking. Her records already embodied the local electro-funk bumping from the throwback radio stations in her city of Los Angeles. The robust spine of her music was even more pronounced live, moving with a thick crawl not so far off from ones found in records by, say, her collaborator Dam-Funk.
“Nite-Funk!” One of the crowd requested in the middle of the set, referring to Gonzalez’s duo project with Dam-Funk. Unfortunately, she played none of the songs featured on their recent four-song EP. With the level she got bodies moving during the middle of her set, “Let Me Be Me” would’ve hit the peak of the night in terms of shimmying.
But “Nowhere to Go,” a one-off from the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack, did the trick to raise the beat of the room. The brash synth stab shook up the smooth ride set up by the past slick jams. One fan in the crowd got what he wanted as he shouted out the song before the band started playing.
“Did you look at my set list?” Gonzalez asked, fiddling with the small piece of paper she had by her keyboards. “As the man correctly guessed, this is ‘Nowhere to Go.’”
Towards the end the night, a few fans shouted out couple more Nite Jewel song titles, including Nite-Funk and “Another Horizon” from her 2010 EP, Am I Real? (No, she didn’t play that one.) “Thanks for the requests,” Gonzalez replied as she geared up for her last song.
Fans interacted with her throughout the night, and she played right back. Before she got to her last song, she started chatting with a group of friends in the front about Tijuana, where the fans were from. “I’ll talk to you guys more after the show,” she said, as if she remembered she had a show to finish. It was a fun little back-and-forth only a down-to-earth bar venue like Soda Bar can allow. I wonder what else they discussed after she stepped off stage, but that’s between her and them.