Experimental Guatemalan cellist Mabe Fratti’s new album is inspired by her stay in an old factory outside Mexico City

In many ways, Mabe Fratti’s new album is the result of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. In early 2020, Fratti, an artist and composer from Guatemala, found herself staying in La Orduña, an artist space in an old factory outside of Mexico City. The impending lockdown saw her stay at the space for a month, alongside a host of other notable musicians from the inventive local scene. “I didn’t feel inspired at all. I felt like it was a terrible moment,” she says of her initial time there, right at the beginning of the pandemic. Almost by accident, however, an album formed.

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Instigated by the time at hand and the people around her, as well as the equipment she’d taken with her in order to work on other projects, Fratti’s feelings began to change, soon becoming inspired by her stay at La Orduña – you can even hear field recordings of the chirping birds outside her room on the album. In just the few short weeks she stayed there, Mabe had improvised and then recorded all of the songs that would become her second full length effort, the spellbinding ‘Será que ahora podremos entendernos’. 

Having initially played music as a game with her sister, Fratti went to study at a small academy, and while her sister chose to focus on the Violin, Mabe chose the saxophone, only to quickly be told by the academy’s director she didn’t have the breath for it. Instead, she chose to learn the Cello but abandoned this after some years of academic learning. It wasn’t until years later, Mabe returned to music by playing in bands. It was these experiences which gave her the confidence to produce her own music in her early twenties.

A residency in Mexico City in 2015 would kickstart her love of the city and its burgeoning improvisation scene, while also igniting her passion for the inspiration that could be discovered within likeminded musical communities. Mabe made the move across the border permanent, and ideas soon began to form. She threw herself into her work and also other people’s, going to as many shows as she could, inhaling the eclecticism of the experimental players around her – including Concepción Huerta, Camille Mandoki, Gibrán Andrade and eventually notable Texan artist Claire Rousay who features on new song ‘Hacia El Vacio’ alongside Mabe. 

While her debut album, Pies Sobre la Tierra, was an inspired collection of twisted sounds, new album Será que ahora podremos entendernos’ finds a space for lyrical invention too, focusing on human’s issues with communication: its title translates into English as: Will we be able to understand each other now?. “The everyday act  of communication is contradicted by the idea that communicating with others, and yourself, is never simple: it’s ultimately an absurd desire to want to be absolutely understood yet we insist to be because we have this human desire for connection” Mabe says of the album’s central idea.

Across the album’s nine dense and diverse tracks, Mabe constructs striking new worlds, all of which stemmed from those improvisations she conjured while staying at La Orduna. Indeed, she based each song on her idea of “diagramation”, having a start point and an endpoint, and then exploring the many different journeys she could take to tie them together. The listener too should appreciate this journey, viewing the album’s many layers as objects to navigate through and around, under and over. 

Mabe’s Cello is still a prominent aspect of the work here but it comes draped in vintage synths, guitars, field recordings, and gentle drone – some of which is influenced by Mexico’s experimental band Tajak who appear on two tracks here – which makes for a remarkable, tangible atmosphere across the whole album.

Opening track ‘Nadie Sabe’ opens the album beautifully, Mabe’s layered vocals and the playful strings sitting somewhere between Julianna Barwick and Arthur Russell. Elsewhere, ‘Hacia El Vacio’ showcases the album’s more complex side, presenting dark drone waves, spiky electronics, and shifting temperatures, while ‘En Medio’ feels like a culmination of both sides, a spellbinding track that gently shimmers through its absorbing five-and-a-half minutes. 

An inspired and inspiring collection, Será que ahora podremos entendernos can be seen as an ode to the letting down of boundaries; both personal and otherwise. By never being afraid to leap between styles and genres, and by embracing experimental improvisation and strength of the community around her, Mabe Fratti has made a deeply affecting record, full of shifting sonic soundscapes, woven together to make a world unto itself.