The Gone Orchestra

Begone

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The Gone Orchestra's debut was one wide-ranging romp, an hour-long declaration of independence from most perceptions of what Pacific Northwest bands and modern jazz was supposed to sound like. Apparently inspired by the proposition of what Sun Ra in the late '60s would have been like set in the '30, at its wildest, Begone, consisting solely of originals, would have made perfect soundtrack music to classic Warner Bros. cartoons designed by John Kricfalusi. Hints of everyone from Frank Zappa and Little Feat to electro-cabaret Tom Waits also crop up, but the Gone Orchestra maintains its own enjoyably inscrutable vision. The instrumental lineup alone is impressive -- everything from waterphone to shenai and "low tech electronics" goes into the mix along with more traditional horns, guitar, and rhythm instruments. Indeed, one core member, recording engineer Mike Lastra, plays nothing but samples and duck calls -- something bound to give someone like Wynton Marsalis fits. Bassist/guitarist Ron Long handles the vocals here, finding a good combination of smooth and rough, like a much less raspy Louis Armstrong; he almost makes the calmer songs radio friendly, except for all the odd snippets and unsettling weirdness cascading through the mix. Given the group's dedication to recording and creating songs on the spot, it's little surprise that much of the music has an on-the-spot air of slight chaos, but the players are all well-attuned to each other. If there's a need for more aural craziness, then by gum that's what another member will immediately bring in. The whole album is worth the extended plunge, but there are some entertaining highlights that excellently capture the band's spirit. "Harum Scarum," with its sped-up loop opening and murky, creepy arrangements of atmospheric noise and jamming and concluding vibe chill, is one hands-down winner, as is the spaced-out piano swing of "Hubba Hubba" and the full-on fun of "Keel Hauled."