Sancho: Mystery Year
Seed Records

On Mystery Year, dusty out-of-tune pianos, folk guitars, toy harps, found sounds, and the whirrs and clicks of broken hardware come together to form Sancho's rickety analogue mix of Lilliputian electro-folk miniatures. Using fragments tangentially associative with electronica, krautrock, and folk, Sancho assembles the album's 13 pieces into evocative, loosely-structured atmospheres. The group's sound is likely a work-in-progress, though, as the album was initiated by Paul Hanford in his Dorset countryside bedroom before it expanded into what's now a 9-piece collective of players (including core members of Betika and live contributions from the Paper Cinema visual team), some appearing on the album and some later.

The junkyard waltz opener, “We've Missed You,” immediately declares that Sancho's disc will be an unusual creature, especially when its chorus of warbling voices sees-saws over a base of glockenspiels and the mournful cry of a rustic viola. A crackle-smothered accordion loop and wordless vocal chorus in “Nobodies” recalls Dictaphone's similarly cinematic style, while “Self (opened) Self” is the sound of a midway music cart tumbling down a hill, as pianos, drums, flutes, and strings collided in fits and starts while drums clatter. Female vocals add contrast to the ‘60s Euro-flavoured, folk-ballad “I'm On Your Side” and an otherwise unusual mix of grasshopper synths, pianos, and guitar in “Spare Rooms.” Sometimes reflective in feel, at other times propulsive (“(There's A) Ghost In The Window” and, driven by electric guitar and thrashing drums, the album's most energized piece “20 Messages”), Mystery Year is less songs than meandering drone, post-rock, and melancholic ballad settings, the kind of album where a zither or bouzouki is just as likely to appear as a melodica or glockenspiel.

July 2006