Mabe Fratti
Sentir que no sabes

(Unheard of Hope)


Frighteningly prolific, Guatemala-born Mexico-based avant-garde cellist, composer and dabbler Mabe Fratti has charted so much ground in so little time. Since her 2019 debut album, Fratti has carved out a niche as a genuine one-off, a first-rate explorer and experimenter of bold and blazing sounds.

Perhaps that of a Central American Arthur Russell is a lazy comparison, given the difference in the sound of their records, but given their hunger for exploration, prolific peaks and their virtuosity on the cello, it feels rather apt.

Fratti has just released her ninth album in five years (including collaborations); the fact that each one is on a completely different planet to the last is testament to her place at the vanguard of cosmic music in 2024. Last year’s Vidrio, as one half of the duo Titanic, saw her sprawl out into heavily orchestrated pop inventions a la Julia Holter, whilst 2022’s Se Ve Desde Aquí was rife with genuinely weird cello-forged electroacoustic sound worlds.

Sentir que no sabes is Fratti’s latest offering, and takes its cues from these two records especially, but warps them into something approaching pop music. She embraces pop structures with wide eyes, and puts herself front and centre as an instrumentalist and vocalist. Her best record? Hard to say. But it is her most palatable and instantaneous, and achieves this without compromise.

Mabe Fratti and Hector Tosta, aka Titanic

This record very much sounds like something made by one set band, a cohesive whole ready for her forthcoming world tour. Hector Tosta (I. La Catolica), the other half of Fratti’s Titanic duo and collaborator since 2022, plays the bass in a distinctive meandering style that gives the album a divine looseness, whilst Jacob Wick’s occasional trumpet interjections are dizzying as they are glorious.

Fratti is the star though. Her deadpan vocal delivery is front-and-centre like never before, while her exquisite, inventive cello is sometimes plucked, sometimes droning and sometimes soaring, still providing a lot of the focus.

Sentir que no sabes, like the iconoclast that made it, contains multitudes. ‘Elastica I’ and ‘Elastica II’ are textural collages of the kind that adorns Fratti’s back catalogue, hibernal soundscapes littered with flourishes of strings and brass, whilst ‘Intento fallido’ is unapologetically sugar sweet pop – distinguishable only from the best of Caroline Polachek or Carly Rae by the nature of it’s triumphant melody coming from a cello and not something that plugs into a power outlet.

‘Descubrimos un suspiro’ is a track of thin place: here pop music seeps through monolithic drones, and swirling textures are guided by the lilt of Fratti’s plucked cello, whilst opener ‘Kravitz’ sees ideas swirling around a plodding bassline, swarms of instrumentation and vocal ad libs encircling a mutant groove.

A thrilling ride through oddball pop, upside down sound worlds and orchestral daydreams, Mabe Fratti’s most accessible record to date is a 411 on why she is one of the most exciting artists in the world today. Sentir que no sabes will only turn more people onto Fratti’s magical world, as it showcases yet another string to Fratti’s enchanted bow.