A nine-minute, smoked-out cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" is the immediate stand-out on the second album by academic/goofball jazz trio The Hot At Nights. At the three-and-a-half-minute mark, the Raleigh group's slippery take on the 1992 hit becomes nearly silent for a full five minutes. It climbs like the crescendo of the original, turning it into an extended groove.
¡Try This! improves upon the quirky ambitions of its predecessor, Nice Talk. That album contained several musical tics: their instruments, toward the end of a composition, would slam into one another, a jumble of jazz improvisation. Other times, effects were slathered over the jams, giving the song a psychedelic feel. But on ¡Try This!, The Hot At Nights have abandoned those tricks and are instead showing more confidence in expressing its discordant ideas without the assistance of production gimmicks.
Similar to time-signature tricksters The Dismemberment Plan, The Hot At Nights mix pop and jazz. Quirky Nintendo Wii music meets drum-and-bass skitters on the album opener "Try This," while "Phaseus" is neo-noir sax rock. There are moments of movie soundtrack music (the funhouse rise and fall of "I Enjoyed Here More")—and, sad but true, far-too-pleasant horn lilts à la John Tesh. "Planet Fitness" is a silly track that toys with background music heard in corporate chain stores, yet still finds a place for a crunchy '70s rock guitar riff.
What makes ¡Try This! so impressive is that the band has recast modern jazz to include shards of other genres. (That makes sense, since frontman Chris Boerner is also busy as the guitarist for The Foreign Exchange and working with various studio projects). ¡Try This! is an inviting title for this album, but a more on-the-nose name might be, "Try anything." That's certainly the group's M.O.
Label: Chris Boerner Music
Correction: The price for the Pour House show is $10–$12.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Treks and trials."