The Hellblinki Sextet
Saturday, January 22
Nuçi's Space

With music evoking dead landscapes and lonely wind, the Cubists commenced an evening of Augusta-based music at Nuçi's Space with unyielding two-guitar melody draped across jazzy drumming and stoic, detached vocals. Frontman Noel Brown's quick right hand on sustained notes set the frame for Marcus Barfield to walk the frets and lay down a sound that was at times classical but still inventive.

In spite of occasional melodic additions and detractions from the overall structure, the Cubists came across as homogenous at times, and could have benefited from bit more variety within individual tracks.

The Shaun Piazza Band, second act of the evening, exhibited a striking, summery feel throughout its set that was primarily characterized by bright acoustic guitar rhythm and emotionally invested vocals. Giving a textbook example of effective crescendo, the five-part group rose to frenzied levels of energy without seeming muddy or over-the-top at any point.

Occasional keyboard accompaniment, while skillfully executed, didn't seem to fit in with their otherwise natural façade. From start to finish, they sounded more like a single unit than individual musicians united through rising action and denouement alike.

Reviving the lost art of vaudevillian visual entertainment during a musical show, the Hellblinki Sextet's pirate cabaret is something that needs to be seen as well as heard to garner its full scope. A direct product of tin-pan band Andrew Benjamin's buccaneer heart, Hellblinki utilizes the unlikely instrumental alloy of baritone saxophone, violin, guttural percussion and Benjamin's own patchwork guitar/ drum offering to manage a truly engaging sound. The sax and violin laid a delicate yet comprehensive wrought iron framework that spindled in and around the shambling, sometimes-dissonant guitar and (dare I say Tom Waitsesque?) vocals, seeming more like a full backing orchestra than two lone musicians. Deeply rooted in the percussion, the drumming was furious yet calculated, lending a skeleton to the amorphous beauty of the band's more ethereal aspects.

Enamored of audience participation, Benjamin showered dime-store noisemakers on the crowd, imploring the audience to join into the aural disarray. They gave the impression that it was a one-of-a-kind show, and that no matter how many times you may happen to see the band (and however many lineup changes there may be), it will always be a new, uniquely Hellblinki, experience.

Most refreshing of all was the band's refusal to adhere to 4/4 timing. The guys encouraged the audience to dance along with them through blue waltzes and upbeat gypsy tangos alike. Alas, their esoteric sound was lost on many of the audience members, who departed en masse near the middle of the Hellblinki set. A loyal showing of Augustans stuck it through to the end, and the band charged on with as much momentum as ever - clearly undaunted by the rapidly evaporating Athenian public. The Hellblinki Sextet is playing with Hope For Agoldensummer, Faun Fables and Petrillo Relents at the Mission in Augusta on February 5; a well-timed departure from contemporary music, the band's a visual collage worth catching.

David Commins