The best pieces on 919 Noise: Piedmont Melodies are those unapologetic devotionals to an idea or a sound. For instance, Joe Hendrix’s closing, eight-minute aubade, “Trem III,” is a blossoming drone for guitar and effects. It begins only as a whisper of pure tone, a short loop cycling around itself, growing louder with each pass. That wispy glow lessens, however, as it’s subsumed slowly by less halcyon tones. The track builds like a once distant and pretty sound coming to rest just outside your ear canalloud and a little incomprehensible, too much action at too close a proximity. After eight minutes, the music fades into hazy oblivion, Hendrix affirming a lesson that composers Alvin Lucier or Alvin Curran might’ve suggested: Having become part of the world, a sound can never quite go home again. Subscape Annex’s faint percussion tinkeringsbells, bowls, brushes, pinging and amassing in aleatoric harmonycapitalizes on a similar vision; even the enthusiastically chaotic Boyzone exercises surprising restraint on the short “Infant Animalia,” with their eviscerated screams and blasts of static and squall coiling together with perfect tension.
The more symbolically appropriate tracks, though, might be those with more chimerical enthusiasm than steadfast vision: Ben Collins’ “Paraplegic Cross” is an interesting collage that simply moves too quickly, its electronic whirs not taking hold before a crisscross of samples cuts them short. Jeff Rehnlud’s “2Dough” capitalizes on childlike fascinations with simple rhythms and blurred samples, but its refusal to sit still feels tedious. And Bruce Stevens’ aggressive guitar-and-noise take on the traditional “Clementine” fuses too many styles of playLoren Connors-like spectral picking and acid-soaked roarin too short a time. But those unfocused pieces are the ones that illustrate best the purpose and possibility of 919 Noise, a loose collective of experimentally minded folks in the Triangle: There’s a lot of sound on this 17-track, 58-minute compilation. Some succeed, and some fail. But each, in its own resolved way, advocates for a challenging vision of music in your neighborhood.