Having already made one obligatory jaunt into the hissing lo-fi murk for her debut Good Evening, this time Nite Jewel’s Romana Gonzalez opts for a markedly more polished, cleaner sound. She isn’t the first artist to return to fidelity’s waiting embrace - surely by now the trend of emulating the dated and the degraded has exhausted most of its potential, at least within the realm of the naïve disco craft. Recorded on an 8-track cassette deck, so muffled was Good Evening that it almost connoted some of the foggy features of Liz Harris’ Grouper project, inserted into cute funk songs. Yet it hasn’t aged well, and four years on in this vibrant, short-sighted culture of creativity now sounds (in a bad way) a little stale.
It isn’t the greatest shock that the quality and use of sound is so different on One Second of Love, then, but it is particularly satisfying that both the style and composition, taking advantage of a wider sonic spectrum, have also improved. Most noticeable of all is, of course, Gonzalez’s voice, now somewhat salient and graspable. She sounds at once more relaxed, mature and confident. In the verses of ‘In The Dark’, an album highlight, she glides along the the lower threshold of her range for the second line of each couplet, also and elsewhere demonstrating a tastefully subtle vibrato. It’s a pleasure to hear this much more clearly than before, no longer bashful gesturing from beneath a ruffled mid-range. Part of this invigorated new sound will have to do with the expansion of personnel; while Good Evening was mostly done solo, here all but the final tune feature assistance from others, most often Cole MGN (who also produces the record) and the lately revered Julia Holter.
The title song on One Second of Love is a really neat arrangement of synth-pop, one of the crisper and more successful pieces, while ‘Memory Man’ gestures toward the realm of more summer-friendly pop, even granting a twee guitar solo leave to shimmer through the middle. ‘Autograph’ most recalls previous material, retaining the all-round affinity for R&B as well as a bassline that competently out-funks anything else Gonzalez has released. On ‘Clive’, the chord progression loosely resembles the chorus of the title song simplified, finishing the album with a vague sense of reprise. The beatless drift and serene hues of Gonzalez’s voice are pretty indeed, while a thick bass lends the chorus a throbbing frame. It’s no challenge, but nor is it forgettable; a canny, manipulative treat. And as much holds true for most of the record. Delving as Good Evening did into a several different styles, it comes across as notably less clumsy, sparingly arranged and so lacking the extraneous mess. Barring a couple of weaker moments, it’s an enjoyable listen.