first met the Hellblinki Sextet outside on a dark August
evening... While I'm sure the group would love for me to continue
with some dark, macabre tale of punk pirates and carnival freaks, I
must admit it was a small, late evening gig at Arts in the Heart.
And while the atmosphere leaned twoards family fun and harmless homeade
crafts, front-man Andrew Benjamin and his southern "psycho-cabaret"
band took me to a completely differeent place. Mr. Benjamin, his
face powdered chalk white, his lips painted black, and his ebony hair
crowned with a top hat, smiled like a ringleader as he orchestrated a
beautiful symphony of dark accounts.
Benjamin started the band in
Durham, North Carolina. He bought an 8-track recording device and
began gathering his friends for "Sunday bacchanals," during which the
group performed and taped tracks filled with miscellaneous instruments
and sound. "[The style] probably has a little bit to do with
growing up. My folks were really into opera. I grew up seeing a
lot of theatre, especially musical theatre - that's where the
theatrical elements come from. And I grew up with punk rock, and
music from all over the spectrum. You can glimpse that in what we do:
we put it all ins big pot, and add plenty of seasoning," Benjamin
says. He returned to his native home of Augusta to finish
recording and produce the Hellblinki Sextet's first full length CD "A
The band has come a long way since their house
party recordings and small appearances at venues and festivals.
The sextet is currently a three piece set, consisting of Andrew
Benjamin (vocals, guitar, bass percussion), Valerie Meiss (vocals,
accordion, piano, percussion), and Brad Lunsford (bass guitar,
accordion). They collaborated with several other musicians, however, to
create the group's third full length album, Oratory. Benjamin
remarks "I actually put something up on CraigsList.com, because I
wanted a tuba for this one song." A tubist from Toronto, Canada,
replied and sent a recording via the internet. Hellblinki also
used this method to recruit Henry Wynn, and Augusta violinist who has
performed with the sextet on several occasions.
Oratory leads you
through a peculiar and fantastic invention of bluesy folk, guerilla
opera and, what Benjamin calls, "punk rock cinematics." While
listening to Oratory, I find myself transfixed in juxtaposition.
Am I really sitting here at my laptop listening to an mp3? Or am
I situated on some back highway road, watching a fire dim and being
lulled by a gypsy band while someone fiddles with a radio that pours
out the drawl of southern talk radio?
The "talk" I refer is found
specifically in the interludes of the album. What the group calls
"found sound" plays while instruments continue on, creating a steady,
never-ending flow of music. This braid of music and sound forms
an odd calypso that digs deep into the untilled soil of your forgotton
dreams and nightmares.
As one fan said, Hellblinki spawned fully
grown from the forehead of Shiva and represents the whole of the
universe, laid out backwards in coffe stains on the passenger-side
front floor mat of and olive green '68 Plymouth Fury. Expect your
Hellblinki experience to play like a Tim Burton film, filled with dark
lyrics and mysterious melodies which both chill and warm your soul.
Hellblinki Sextet returns to its Augusta roots this month to celebrate
the release of Oratory on July 12 at Sky City. Show begins at 10:30 pm.
check out their website at www.hellblinki.com or download Oratory availiable on iTunes
by Ashley Plocha