Guatemalan cellist and composer, Mabe Fratti releases Se Ve Desde Aquí (It Is Seen From Here) on October 14, 2022, on Unheard of Hope.
Se Ve Desde Aquí (‘It Is Seen From Here’) marks another step in a remarkable run of releases from Guatemalan cellist and composer, Mabe Fratti. It is possibly her most revealing one to date; showcasing a sinuous and tensile sound coupled with a confident and clear-eyed worldview.
Mabe Fratti is always on the lookout for new ways to express herself and to reflect her surroundings; she sees this as a process of continual “sonic transformation”. Not that she sees her method as unique: “I believe this happens to a lot of musicians, that in the interim when you finish a record and you release it you learn [new] things and change your philosophy towards what you want to sound like.”
Se Ve Desde Aquí is a decisive shift away from Fratti’s most recent works, which were more enigmatic in tone. The rich, multi-layered arrangements heard on 2021’s acclaimed long player, Será que ahora podremos entendernos and egoless collaborations such as the fabulous Let’s Talk About The Weather with Malaria legend and Monika supremo Gudrun Gut, created a mystery around Fratti which reveal only certain aspects of this affable musician’s character.
Fratti sees her new music as “drier” in texture and more on the front foot in terms of setting out emotion: she describes the results as “less protected”. According to her, the sound is “informed through the aesthetics of rawness, and a ‘dirtiness’”: sampling expressions within improvisation, or extreme hi-fi dry sound. This noisy instrumentation is set against “the tools of melodic lines and harmony”, leading to a trademark richness, but one now more judiciously applied to set up a moment: “I did layering but it’s more in specific moments. Basically my whole idea was to be as raw as possible and try to avoid overdubbing the same instrument as much as I could, of course always leaving space to break my own rules in the process.”
This “frontal” approach carries over into the lyrical content. Many of the lyrics on tracks such as ‘Algo grandioso’ (‘Something great’), ‘Esta vez’ (‘This time’) and ‘Siempre tocas algo’ (‘You are always touching something’) refer to walls either falling or being circumnavigated. Questions around the use, or value, of time and other lyrical content invoking the senses and the body – as seen in ‘Deja de empujar’ (‘Stop pushing’) or ‘Cada músculo’ (‘Every muscle’) – also seem to suggest Fratti making pivotal individual decisions in her life, whether due to internal or external agencies. The tactile, mercurial and sometimes sparkling arrangements also suggest Fratti knowing where to place her work in the wider world.
Mabe Fratti always enjoys working with others and Se Ve Desde Aquí is a record wholly informed by the collaborative process, whether holed up in WORM Sound Studios in Rotterdam, or at her home and in the Progreso Nacional studios, both in Mexico City. One key help has been Hugo Quezada, of Exploded View and late of synth act, Robota. Other recording allies are co-producer, guitarist and synth player Héctor Tosta, drummer and personal mentor Gibrán Andrade, saxophonist Jarrett Gilgore, violinist Alina Maldonado (heard on tracks ‘Cada Músculo’ and ‘Cuestión de Tiempo’), as well as Carla Boregas from Brazilian punk band Rakta who added tape loops and synthesizers to track ‘Siempre tocas algo’.
Gearheards will be interested to know how such a transcendent sound came about. One key element is a focus on microphones, specifically Earthworks microphones, which Fratti “fell in love with” and saw as an inspiration for the wider creative process. She also fulfilled a lifelong wish and “played a little saxophone on the track ‘Desde el cielo’.” Whilst at WORM Sound Studios, Fratti lost herself with the vintage synths such as “the amazing” KORG PS 3200 and a much prized CS 60. In Progreso Nacional she recorded Mellotron, CS 50, a Jupiter, Solina, Korg M500 and more. “It was too much fun.” The Solina has an interesting backstory: Hugo Quezada found it “dropped in the garbage” whilst out walking with a friend. Quezada has a history of finding instruments in strange places; having found a vintage MS20 once that was being used as a table in a food stand… Regardless: all these provenances, places and people joined to create a truly remarkable work.
“The result is nine tracks that inspire inner spaciousness, undercut with a journeying sense of unease, through the creation of ambient, textural soundscapes.”
★★★★ The Guardian, Global Album of the Month
“Blooming with ecstatic synth riffs and spirited cello, this record captures the sound of a mind abuzz” Pitchfork
“What may be the most adventurous album I’ve heard all year!… what you hear is clearly a cello but what unfolds is an aural excursion worth a careful listen on a good pair of headphones or speakers.”
“She plays cello like a wild angel”
Mary-Anne Hobbs, BBC 6 Music
“Every note feels carefully-placed, each movement adding something important to the intricate web Fratti spins through out” 8/10 Loud and Quiet
“Cello at the heart of everything, voice weaving around it, synthesizer as embellishment. But from these three elements, she creates ever more complex emotional equations – from the instantly pleasurable to the naggingly puzzling – which develop into a bigger picture on her second album” The Wire
“Cobweb-delicate, stunningly beautiful experimental pop” Bandcamp
“a chillingly-beautiful showcase in the delicate and deeply intimate soundscapes Fratti creates using only synthesiser, vocals, and her cello” XLR8R