The Hellblinki Sextet
Performer Southeast
The Hellblinki Sextet - Oratory
Recorded by Andrew Benjamin at his home in Asheville, NC and at Southern Cycle Works in Augusta, GA Track 13 recorded by Asa Leffer live at The 40 Watt Club in Athens, GA Found sound and field recordings discovered, compiled or created by Andrew Benjamin

The world influences on this Asheville, N.C. sextet are absolutely staggering; everything from Russian folk to Italian concerto to Americana (and most everything in between) all find themselves present and accounted for, albeit all of the above given a more than punk edge aesthetic. Appropriately enough, the group itself describe its sound as a "Three Penny Opera meets Sesame Street ... with punk rock experimentation and a southern drawl," which, if one must be forced to categorize the band’s sound, is probably as fitting of a description as any other. Think Gogol Bordello, with an emphasis on European cabaret, and you're getting a little bit warmer.

"The End" kicks off things with a charismatic and slightly evil sounding Andrew Benjamin (singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist) leading the band in a dark cabaret-esque tune, accompanied by Ian Moore on violin and Brad Lunsford on bass. It is easy to imagine the singer Benjamin as Lucifer himself, complete with a circus top hat and a cane in one hand, inviting the listener to join him in the depths of the underworld for the rest of eternity to come. Lyrics like, "Look down in this deep dark hole/beneath the ground, here's a ticket to a land below / ...Follow, follow, follow me" only help to reaffirm the above mentioned image that much more. From this point on, things simply get weirder (and much more wonderful) as the album progresses.

"Kerosene" finds the group playing in an early 20th century bluesy style Americana, complete with dobro guitar, piano and Tom Waits-like vocals, while only two songs later the band completely switches it up with "Bella Ciao," a traditional Italian folk song played without the slightest bit of smugness or sarcasm. The lovely Valerie Meiss uses her operatic voice to full degree on the later, creating one of the absolute highlights in all the 23 tracks on an album filled with glowing songs. The Hellblinki Sextet is without question one of the most unique, gifted and flat-out fun bands to come out of the region in a long time. (Self-released)

-Matt Frisch