1939 ENSEMBLE is an instrumental quartet from Portland, OR.
The band is José Medeles…David Coniglio…Josh Thomas…Knate Carter
DRUMS. VIBRAPHONE. TRUMPET. GUITAR. NOISE
If 1939 Ensemble are indeed a mixed bag in the Portland, OR art-rock scene, then they aren’t the type of bag you bring to the grocery store to be environmentally conscious. Nor are they the type of bag you have to hide from your room mates in fear that its flammable contents would go missing. Their a bag you may intend to use as an umbrella, but that somehow
transforms into an amiable parachute each time you pick it up.
On the upcoming full length “New Cinema” the quartet bravely question how to reinvent music that accents a moving picture, and with enough tropes to be happily accessible to listeners who many even cringe at the word Jazz. If Roy Ayers microdosed with members of Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo in the late 70’s then it would sound like the first half of “Hourglass.” The track later envelopes into picturesque trumpet achieving a Morricone-like crescendo. And like Ayers, their inclusion of vibraphone is in varying contexts, which is why including it in experimental rock is no hard judgment call. Just as vibraphone was invited into a world of hip hop sampling so too do 1939 invite hip hop to their dimension by tapping DJ Logic for the track “No Chaser.”
Putting their mercurial sound into words has induced head scratching in journalists since 2012, the most noteworthy being Pitchfork’s “Industrial art deco with no more than vibraphone, constrained feedback, the inexorable motion of multiple percussionists.” But to do their compositions justice, you must imagine that listening to 1939 is like entering a futurist ballroom that is well traveled by post-rock attendees. The exterior greets you with all the elegance of Jazz as you enter, it’s a unique structure that knows no sense of conformity in the architecture. The décor when you step inside is every bit as regal as it is experimental, placing you in a surreal vignette of sparsely used colors. And last but not least, the dynamic lighting used to accent a movie set. All of these of these elements making the music into a pictorial framing of time, both past and future.
And in deliberating on the past the band recently dropped the E.P. “Beats and Saints,” which sees the band covering Björk, Charles Mingus, and Stereolab in their own incomparable fashion. It’s also the first to feature new members Knate Carter (vibes, guitar) and Josh Thomas (trumpet, Moog) making them now an upwardly mobile quartet. Playing live the band has never balked at sharing the stage with BADBADNOTGOOD or Battles, to far flung contemporaries like Thundercat. Making 1939 appear utterly fearless at presenting their craft, which is why being asked to open for Tortoise on tour made
complete stylistic sense as a paring.
So if Jazz can be “Nu” then so too can be the approach of musicians who are envisioning a movie you haven’t seen yet, or that may never exist outside of going to see them live. Either way, 1939 is a “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” type of experience to behold,
get a seat now, as they are going fast.
“NEW CINEMA” (2018)
“BEATS & SAINTS” (2018)
“BLACK DIAMOND PEARL” (2015)
“HOWL & BITE” (2012)