Beats & Saints
Since its inception, the music of Portland, Oregons 1939 Ensemble has always explored the relationship between rhythm and melody. On the quartets new EP Beats & Saints, that connection-between pulse and phrase-is turned inside out. The record finds vibraphonist Jose Medeles, percussionist David Coniglio, trumpeter Josh Thomas, and guitarist Knate Carter in a loose, playful mode, interpreting songs by Charles Mingus, Bjork, the Breeders, and Stereolab, alongside two new Ensemble originals. Melodic, surprising, and rhythmically dense, this EP finds the band teaming with experimental music legend Ralph Carney, known for his work with Tom Waits, Bill Laswell, Jonathan Richman, and Martin, Medeski, and Wood, and many more, along with Josh Klinghoffer (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tinariwen). Demonstrating the bands inside humor, a Korg Rhythm 55 drum machine also receives a "guest" credit. Hunkering down in the 1939s own B-Sides Studios, the band and guests indulges in the time-honored tradition of musicians simply blowing off steam, seeing what happens when combustible elements are combined. The record is an example of open collaboration. "It was such a great energy," Medeles says of the bands collaborations with outside musicians. "It was really about friendship and energy as much as anything." Since 2013s Howl & Bite, recorded by Coniglio and Medeles as a duo in 2010, 1939 Ensemble has expanded its parameters with each release, adding members like Thomas and Carter as times gone on. This EP finds that expansion playing out stylistically, tying together and ultimately transmuting disparate threads of groove, noise, and rhythm. Its a casual assemblage, "a nice collage of songs," Medeles says, but a picture of a band "recording music in their own space-in their own terms." The resulting recording is a demonstration of that sonic vocabulary, used to stun and wow.