5/10 Ramona Gonzalez has been making music since her student days, first coming to attention with the home-recorded debut album Good Evening in 2009, but you’ll find no reflection of those early, rough-and-ready DIY methods in this follow-up; Gonzalez now trades in slick, smooth, cocktail-hour music. On One Second Of Love, she dips into a dressing-up box of musical styles – from the musical theatre drama of opener ‘This Story’ and closing track ‘Clive’ to the ’80s synth-funk of the title track and staccato R’n'B of ‘She’s Always Watching You’. She even dabbles, albeit very faintly, with alt-country (witness the guitar break in the middle of ‘Memory Man’), before making a more convincing stab at post-dubstep with the whomp of fuzzy, headachey bass and higher, disconnected vocal of ‘No I Don’t’.
This lack of connection manifests itself frustratingly often throughout the album. Gonzalez’s vocal is a versatile and powerful tool, but (deliberately?) holds itself back from much display of emotion. The slower, more ponderous tracks – ‘Unearthly Delights’, ‘Mind & Eyes’, and even the more upbeat, disco-inflected ‘Autograph’ – constitute a resolute failure to engage, their sophistication and sheen providing something blandly admirable but not much more.
Many of the songs feel as if they have been padded out. A favourite device of Gonzalez’s is to take a line or phrase of lyric and repeat it almost ad nauseam, as on the title track’s “Life goes on and on and on and on…” refrain, the Laurie Anderson-like chanting of “Mind mind mind mind mind mind mind and eyes” in ‘Mind & Eyes’, and the “I’m left out, I’m left out” repetition of ‘Memory Man’. The lack of any sense of narrative behind the songs only adds to the sense that this is music that is not aware of, or maybe too cool to be concerned with, its audience. Only the occasional lyric stands out, like “Sometimes I imagine that we are at a pitstop / but I’m invisible to you” (‘This Story’), or the beautifully drawled “Scotch and two rocks doesn’t stop these dismal thoughts” (‘Mind & Eyes’).
Although One Second Of Love would undoubtedly make a decent enough soundtrack for a night in an elegant yet soulless bar – all high fashion and reflective surfaces – those looking for a more engaged and engaging serving of sophisticated dance music would be better off looking elsewhere, to a place where you don’t need to seemingly check your emotions in at the door along with your coat.