The Hot At Nights are fronted by guitarist Chris Boerner, also of The Foreign Exchange, The Proclivities and a host of other local projects. Like Phonte’s casually experimental soul group, there’s a strange menace underneath this Raleigh trio’s lithe, sophisticated approach to a stalwart genre past its “cool” expiration date, if it ever had one. The Hot At Nights’ template is straight, clinical jazz, down to the sometimes silly song titles (“CisforKaddafi”) and minimalist artwork. Importantly, they also screw around with the style however they see fit, keeping it compelling while moving toward a sound that doesn’t exactly have a genre. It definitely doesn’t fall into the fusion trap, either.
There’s a trick the Nights pull out every once in a while, when they allow all their instruments to tumble into noise, all slathered with near-psychedelic effects. Just when it gets too weird and you’re thinking, “I bought a jazz album, right?”, they leap out of the gorgeous din with a clean, jaunty, George Benson-like melody, slapping this debut of effortless epics back into focus.
When the group wanders, though, they’re at their best. “Abandon Debit” builds like a seasoned pop composition, beautiful but menacing and anchored by thudding drums fit for doom metal’s slow-burn. Contemporary jazz hybrid Robert Glasper comes to mind, especially on a nervous cover of Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.” Then again, it also recalls the weirdness of early King Crimson. See, The Hot At Nights aren’t simply exhibiting the extremes in which they can operate; anybody can combine disparate sounds and styles. They’re making these delightfully unexpected turns the thrust of their music.