1939 Ensemble is percussionists Jose Medeles and David Coniglio. Their music puts elegantly moody vibraphone melodies against skittering drum patterns. Crackles of noise interrupt like static electricity over the radio before a thunderstorm. These mesmerizing songs come from their new release, Howl & Bite.
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 SE Portland attic. The vintage instruments combine with bursts of electronic noise which punctuate and charge the duo’s tightly constructed songs.
Watch more videos by 1939 Ensemble on our YouTube page. Listen to the full session and interview below, and download “Esperer:”
Audio engineer/mixing: Steven Kray
Video editor: Nate Sjol
Executive Producer: David Christensen