From roughly 1985 to 1991, the compact disc was the sole province of the all-powerful major label. Partly for stubborn reasons, but mostly for limited access to digital manufacturing plants, prominent independent labels like Rough Trade, Touch and Go, Sub Pop and Stiff Records continued business as usual by pressing vinyl records, most of them espousing the natural inferiority of the cold, digital compact disc.
Times have changed, of course, and now it’s the major labels that are slow to abandon business as usual while independent labels innovate online sales models and drive vinyl sales to a whopping 89 percent increase last year alone. That’s the case with two Santa Rosa bands, the Semi-Evolved Simians and Litany for the Whale, who play a joint record-release show for two new LPs this weekend at Guayakí Mate Bar in Sebastopol.
Litany for the Whale (above), so committed to perfection that they scrapped a completely recorded album two years ago and decided to write and record new songs, have just released Dolores, their long-awaited debut album pressed on three different colors of wax. Alternating bouts of self-hatred and self-love make up singer Michael Conrad’s lyrical desolation, and, with similar cover art, the album is a not-distant relative of Converge’s heartbreak-core classic Jane Doe. Opening with the most wretched haunted-house noises imaginable for two straight minutes, the record plunges into “A Wake,” a closed-eye dirge in a running key of despair. If you’ve ever been in love, and were kind of angry about being in love, Dolores should strike a tuned-down, distorted chord.
The Semi-Evolved Simians are another beast entirely—most likely a primate. Following their mission statement that all humans are descended from apes, they’re currently out on tour promoting their first LP, End-Holocene, available on both black and yellow vinyl. Sharing two members from the rambunctious folk quintet the Crux, the Simians, who once played an entire show of Dead Kennedys covers, approach punk rock with as few preconceptions as possible and with a wealth of personal politics (few bands can effectively make a chorus of “Where’s your autonomy?” into a gang singalong). If Propagandhi were from Humboldt County, they’d make a record like the Simians’ End-Holocene.
Bands play at Guayakí in the “Aché Room,” a resplendent name for a venue if ever there was one. It is wider than it is deep, which is good for creating a crowded, pressure-cooked environment. Tell a friend, but don’t tell two or three friends, when Litany for the Whale and the Semi-Evolved Simians celebrate new slabs of vinyl on Sunday, July 19, at Guayakí Mate Bar. 6782 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. 7pm. $5. 707.824.6644.