Ramona Gonzalez has been one of the most entertaining characters in electronic pop since she started making music in 2008. She can be both hyper-commercial and gnarled experimental and dull, but throughout her career she has always been convincing. No Sun is their fifth album as Nite Jewel and perhaps their strongest release yet. An album that was born out of heartbreak and finds the singer deep in her musical soul.
The record is in part a response to the end of their marriage, which lasted over a decade, in 2018. After that traumatic event, Gonzalez immersed himself in musicology, mainly studying how music was used in ancient Greece to document feelings of pain and express grief in the form of grief deeply sad complaints. These studies and reflections on the transcendent power of music to create and reinforce these primal reactions are based on a short, intense recording.
The sound is largely sparse and minimal, with distinctive flourishes, while the songs swell to rousing climaxes. Every sound, synth pulse or moog line here is at the service of Gonzalez’s voice, which carries everything. Much like their earliest musical inspirations like Mariah Carey, the full depth of feeling is packed into the most basic and impressive instruments. There is an enormous amount of soul in her voice that polishes up every song, from the choral dreaminess of Anymore to the heartfelt This Time.
There is a moment when the voice is absent, however, and that perhaps conjures up even more of a chilling reaction to the ghostly dreamscape of # 14. When her voice returns in the following No Escape, it makes for an enchanting juxtaposition. It’s a perfect illustration of Gonzalez’s desire to do the unexpected.
The making of this album was a great emotional job for Gonzalez, unlike the danceable electro of previous Nite Jewel records, but it is certainly the most intriguing release she has put out. Completely conceived and produced in-house, it is a recording of reflection, but also a celebration of the power of music and the voice as emotional rescue and breathing space. Looking back at traditions of the distant past and shaping them into a modern sound and context, it marks a remarkable release by an artist who is still surprising and innovative to the depths of her career.