“One Second of Love” on the dancefloor

Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzalez brings pop sensibility to chillwave.

Dylan Hester


WHAT: Nite Jewel, with Chairlift, and Claps, 18+

WHEN: 9 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

COST: $12 in advance, $14 at the doors

If last year’s biggest indie rock albums made anything clear, it’s that the sound of the 1980s is suddenly back in vogue. Take a look at Bon Iver’s self-titled album and Destroyer’s “Kaputt,” which both feature a level of sophisticated production that harkens back to the high-budget perfectionism of Sade and Talk Talk. Smooth horns and saxophones are laid on top of subtly atmospheric synthesizer mastery. It’s a far cry from the typical jangle and feedback that come to mind with the phrase “indie rock.”

It’s a trend that is happening in many areas of modern music. The most recent example comes courtesy of Nite Jewel, the musical project of Los Angeles-native Ramona Gonzalez. Since 2008, she’s released a string of EPs and a full-length, “Good Evening,” that have placed her among the chillest of the chillwave acts. She stood her ground with the bigger names, like Washed Out, Toro y Moi and Memory Tapes.

So it comes as a surprise that her newest release, “One Second of Love,” plays like an R&B record from a different era. Her vocals no longer drift through the music in hypnagogia. They are placed front and center, polished on top of the mix. Acoustic guitars and electric piano meld together with distinct electronics throughout the album. In a word, it’s pop.

Working on the album, Gonzalez said she listened to a lot of music from ’79 to ’83.

“It was a time when skill, technology, innovation and money were all synergistic,” she said. “That development of sound and how it went from psychedelic-acoustic-electric to electronic is really interesting. I think our album was really nostalgic even though none of the people involved lived during that time.”

But while the aesthetic is familiar, “One Second of Love” is certainly a product of 2012. Caught somewhere between dance-floor grooves and dreamy, headphone-worthy soundscapes, Nite Jewel’s music has become considerably more sophisticated than that of her peers.

“We definitely wanted to make it sound larger than life,” Gonzalez said.

Creating such a sound on a record is one thing, but for many music fans, the live performance is key. While many musicians create lush worlds of sound on a record, a performance consisting of a person tinkering around on a laptop always draws skeptics. Nite Jewel, however, is prepared for a full-band tour.

“We flesh it out,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not super straightforward because each song has a host of different elements. One song is purely electronic, one song has acoustic and electric instruments, one song has drums. We try to make it fluid.”

So while the soul and R&B music of the 1980s may be the most obvious comparison, Nite Jewel’s musical innovation is something entirely contemporary. After years of lo-fi fuzz defining the hippest trends, attention to detail, high-end production values and smooth pop hooks are finally coming back in style.

Perhaps this is the direction chillwave has always been headed.