July 16th, 2017 | Album reviews

Real Low

Real Low, the companion piece to Nite Jewel’s recent Gloriette release Real High, is a collection of b-sides, alternate mixes, and previously unreleased deep cuts from tours past. Nearly every critical discussion of High has made a justifiable connection to 1993’s Janet, and indeed, Ms. Jackson’s presence is woven into many of these extra tracks. There is a looseness, however, that allows the tracks to stand as individual excerpts of her creative mind, rather than form an inevitable album narrative. “So Sick,” a song that Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzales began tinkering with at shows between 2013-2014, and “Never Show”, a cut composed while she was simultaneously developing a film score, show a glimpse into the process of narrowing Real High into the aesthetically airtight final version. The alternate take of High’s “The Answer” is stripped of its sleek, catchy finger-snaps and made to feel like an avalanche moving in reverse—a slow, scintillating ascent that enshrines her vocal melody. Some of Nite Jewel’s lushest, silkiest production arrives towards the end of the EP, with the inclusion of cuts from a recently released 12” for Italians Do It Better. And throughout, lyrical themes of relationships—of being bogged down by the past or exasperated by self-serving instincts, morphing as they always do—are underscored by the production work of Gonzalez’s husband and longtime Nite Jewel contributor, Cole MGN. The pieces that comprise this epilogue provide not only a satisfying listen, but offer fascinating additional clues to the creative process of an artist constantly refining her art.

—Christina Gubala