First from the left speaker and then from the right, a cyclone of mechanized drone—robotic synthesizers and roaring organ, refracted voices and reversed tones—builds like a brisk wind emptying into an open room. It grows and grows, until Lonnie Walker—the first in an essential procession of 17 of the freshest local bands collected on Hear Here: The Triangle—slices straight against it. The guitar is sharp and crisp; the drums are direct and purposeful; a distant piano plinks the melody casually, as if relaying the message to those in the distance. The song, "Feels Like Right," builds and collapses half a dozen times over its four minutes, swiveling on one constant note and springing from a melody that functions as a cross between a chorus and a verse. Such repetition lends urgency to the tune, turning one of the year's best indie rock hooks into what feels, appropriately, like a proclamation—of vitality, of energy, of the emergence of a new crop of Triangle talent that has ever less to do with a venerable if often stodgy, defensive old guard.
All told, Hear Here: The Triangle is this decade's best and most important compilation of area bands, both for its content and context. First and foremost are the uniformly excellent songs and performances, all but one of which was recorded by young Raleigh producer B.J. Burton at Flying Tiger Sound in downtown Raleigh. He captures the spirit of many of these bands better than their most recent LPs did. "The Visitor" broadens the sound of Durham trio Hammer No More the Fingers, for instance. By alternately tweaking the guitar's sidewinding melody so that it slips in and out of time or thickening it so that it lifts the chorus only to enable a texture-heavy bridge, Hammer turns a simple song into an anthem. On "Telepathic Creep," Birds of Avalon continues to slip down the psychedelic hallway of this year's Uncanny Valley. Gothic synthesizers slide in on dark waves beneath guitars that juxtapose pointillist rhythms and arrhythmic drones. Craig Tilley seems trapped in a house of broken mirrors, his voice bounced wildly by the sounds into which it slams.
And after Stuart McLamb turned a shambolic solo home recording into one of the year's biggest buzz records as The Love Language, he finally brings more of the band to bear in a proper studio for "Horophones." This forlorn melody—a shuffled mix of Merseybeat and Motown—is still magic, and it's still softened by the (simulated) atmosphere of used tape and amateur microphones. But in the controlled space, The Love Language works beyond a good song, blurring the hummable tune into a bejeweled, minute-long noise spree. Cascading and cathartic, it's the sound of a druggy summer spent in a fast car.
Unlike so many local compilations before it, Hear Here taps into scenes and sounds outside of some indie rock or alt-country core. The move somehow sounds neither forced nor dilettantish. This is the compilation of the playlist generation, in which the bounds of scene and genre continue to evaporate. The bassy elasticity of Kooley High's breezy "Can't Go Wrong" doesn't feel out of place with Americans in France's nervously delivered, smartly arranged fuck-off, "No Love for a Prophet," although there's nothing breezy about it. With its meticulous harmonies and layers, The Never's arch "Littlest Things" suggests Grizzly Bear striving for the stars. That it sits beside "Sunglasses in Space," three chiseled minutes of heavy metal momentum from Colossus, makes both tunes better by showcasing their divergent strengths. Unity in diversity, as they say.
Hear Here might've only improved by expanding to two discs. Whatever Brains, Tender Fruits, The Foreign Exchange, Old Bricks, The Proclivities, Impossible Arms, Horseback, Megafaun, Bowerbirds: That's just the start of a theoretical B-side. That idea, though, is less a criticism of Hear Here and more a coronation of the groundswell and ambition of new, young local acts executing big ideas independent of the area's artistic establishment. Hear Here harbors only 17 moments of a nebulous scene. That it's this interesting and eclectic—and this conspicuously incomplete—simply means that there's more to hear here, at home.
Annuals, Hammer No More the Fingers, Birds of Avalon and The Never play a release show for Hear Here at Cat's Cradle Saturday, Aug. 29, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, and admission includes a copy of the CD. Motor Skills plays a free show Monday, Aug. 31 at Slim's with Old Bricks and Sea Legs, and Lonnie Walker is at Tir Na Nog Saturday, Sept. 5, with Americans in France and Anti Bubbles.