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Studio Session: 1939 Ensemble

Portland band 1939 Ensemble, made up of percussionists Jose Medeles and David Coniglio, stopped by the opbmusic studios to perform songs from their new release, Howl & Bite.  

Medeles and David play drumkit and vibes interchangeably. Their music puts elegantly moody vibes melodies against skittering drum patterns. Bursts of noise interrupt like static electricity over the radio before a thunderstorm.

Medeles, the former drummer of The Breeders, settled in Portland and opened Revival Drum Shop, which specializes in vintage percussion. Coniglio landed in Portland after studying jazz percussion at Berklee College of Music, and is the head drum instructor at the Portland School of Rock.

According to Medeles, 1939 Ensemble was inspired by Konono No.1 — a band from Kinshasa, Republic of Congo — and its recordings under the name Congotronics. The influential and somewhat underground recordings captured a unique club sound made with salvaged traditional Congolese instruments played through buzzy, overdriven amplifiers. Those led Medeles to experiment with a different way of amplifying the vibraphone. 1939 Ensemble also uses several “found” instruments of its own, including a prized drumkit that came from a dusty southeast Portland attic. The vintage instruments combine with bursts of electronic noise which punctuate and charge the duo’s tightly constructed songs.

Watch and listen to the full opbmusic session.

1939 Ensemble opbmusic

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1939 Ensemble Oregon Public Broadcasting Portland, OR 3-29-13