But for a primarily instrumental band with lengthy theme-and-variation-style pieces, a little repetition goes a long way. Even though the keyboardist (Ryan Stroko) and the talented horn players (Ben Polcer on trumpet and Dave Luther on sax) trade off solo spots in most of the numbers, these musicians never seem to enter that frenzied improv state that journey to a climax and resolution that would make their jazz/electronica hybrid truly captivating. Instead, they have found a comfort zone of basic chord changes and austere melodies that doesn't challenge the band or its listeners.
Cloud Nine's fans don't seem to mind. At a recent gig, the dance floor was packed a half hour before the band took the stage. Expectant, white twenty-somethings spoke of the band's "good vibe" and "energetic presence," and proceeded to bounce and flail to every song in the show. The beat was there (thanks to drummer Dan Piccolo and percussionist Justin Brewer), and every once in a while the full band seemed to find each other in a crescendo of new chords. But the wild movements of the dancers seemed to be responding to some daring musical line I couldn't hear.
Indeed, many of the songs on Cloud Nine's latest CD, Notice Co Lounge (a play on "no disco"), have an almost Music Minus One feel, like studio musicians laying down a rhythm track that still awaits a stunning lead instrument. They capture some great sounds, giving each song its own mood, from the spacey, sci-fi "Damage Control" to the bad 1970s TV soundtrack feel of "Dye Sub." But with songs averaging six or more minutes each, mesmerizing soon turns to boring.