Mabe Fratti [@mabefratti]: Music of a New World

Words by: Andrea Susarrey

Mabe Fratti’s musical philosophy is constantly evolving as she strives to create unique sonic soundscapes.

Mabe Fratti, the Guatemalan cellist and musician based in Mexico City, recently released her album Será que ahora podremos entendernos? (translates to – Will we be able to understand each other now?). It is a complex composition weaving the cello, voice, synthesizers, and field recordings of natural sounds. The 9 song album is a unique and mystifying world, with each individual song unfolding its own diverse and mesmerizing narrative. 

While some subcultures are slowly becoming redundant and overly saturated globally, in Mexico City it’s a different story. Mexico City’s experimental music scene is just breaking to the surface, and its accelerated global recognition has induced the natural formation of a truly new community and identity amongst artists on the rise. 

Over the last four years of her living in Mexico, Fratti has witnessed doors and opportunities increasingly open up to her, running in the same experimental circle in Mexico City as Diles Que No Me Maten, Tajak, amongst others. She is amongst the musical pioneers that are not only changing the game in the city but creating a whole new one. Several articles written about Fratti state that her success is the “result of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people” – after speaking to her the statement couldn’t ring any more true.

Andrea: When asking her about this, Mabe responds:

Mabe: Absolutely. From the very first time I played in the city, the coincidences and opportunities just kept increasingly rolling in. I felt so welcomed into the city. I think I just came at the right time when so many cultural spots or music venues had existed for just short enough a time for certain bands to meet and begin the sparks of a scene. I met people that taught me so much about music that again were here for only a brief window in which we crossed paths. I came to the city right at the beginning of the shift, and I was present for the richness of that process.

Tell me about your process of making music, its intimate and artistic nature, and how you incorporate natural sounds with your field recordings.

Mabe: I’ve worked differently with my past projects. Será was much more deliberate and there was a consistency to it because I tried to make a coherent sonic world for that album. But now for the new one, nature intervenes in a new way. I was at La Orduña (an artist space and old factory outside Mexico City housing several artists) during the pandemic, which is right next to a nature preserve and there were so many animals and insects constantly making noise it naturally was caught by the mics.

I love the sound of the air, ambient sound in general and whatever happens to exist in it. But now it’s much more natural, I start with an idea and I don’t know where it’s going to go, I just let it lead me and keep experimenting with the possibilities. For example, I understand the function of a beat and of a chord, but for me, it’s so much more about thinking of the sound and the actual narrative of it. With simple decisions like “Oh this needs something delicate, or a chord that sounds like Angelo Badalamenti” It’s much more abstract decision making, and playing.

It seems like you guide yourself by the decisions you make, somewhat like the decision making of a painter. Decisions based on previous ones. 

Mabe: Yes, totally just like painting. In fact, I love looking at it like that. It’s like when you’re a kid, and they make you draw a landscape, and depending on where you positioned the sun, they can psychoanalyze you. I see everything depending on its relationship to other things around it – where you put your table in the room etc. I see and make sense of my music by how it relates to the other elements within the structure of the song or album.

Speaking of different parts of a whole, tell me a bit about the visuals for your music.

Mabe: I work with artists for the visuals, I do have a lot of input but I see it as a collaboration. I see the videos as an opportunity to translate the song that exists on a different plane, and it’s really cool to do that collaboratively. At some point, I would like to direct the videos but for now I’m enjoying other people’s perspectives.

What’s new for you at the moment?

Mabe: I made Será a while ago, and I’m in quite a different place now. I’m in this completely opposite approach or philosophy when making music and it’s so much about pureness. Just a clean sound, almost no effects and just so much clarity…I don’t want to change the space I’m in sonically by adding reverb or echoes or distorting it or whatever. Right now, I  want to take advantage of the real spaces I find myself in and try to extract the best sound from it, and then play with the clarity and crudeness of that sound. I really can’t wait to fully get into that new world of the music I’m inclined to make right now and just be fully in the mindset of it.

Who are you listening to right now?

Mabe: Yesterday I was listening to Los Saicos, and I recently discovered this Italian lady who used to be an actress, Maria Monti, she’s amazing. A lot of medieval music as well. I mean also music a bit more upbeat like Kate Bush, Paul Simon and other big 80s pop stars, King Crimson too.

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I’ve noticed that you’re often compared to Arthur Russell, what do you think about that?

Mabe: I think Arthur Russell is amazing. I think we’re very different musically though. I do think he’s someone that completely makes these sonic worlds and is constantly shifting genres and that bold fearlessness is something I really admire. Like World of Echo and Calling Out of Context, one is so pop and fun with drum machines, and the other one is just all over the place with every song – that liberty he has is amazing to me. I think I identify with the want to be super free with where my music goes.

What you guys have in common is that you create a new sonic world with your projects. 

Mabe: Definitely. It’s like a world where you are not scared to exist with what already is, they’re self sustaining.

Similar to what you’re intending to do now- honour the true spaces you find yourself in and make music from that. 

Mabe: Yeah, I think Lucrecia Dalt has inspired me a lot in that sense. She’s so fearless with the world she creates, she has this bewitching tint and is so fearless. Her sound is so pristine and deliberate, and so completely saturated with herself or her personality.  Exposing yourself so vulnerably without holding back creates its own world. That fearlessness is what stands out to me and is exactly what excites me.

Have you had to overcome any fear in making music to reach this point?

Mabe: Definitely, there’s so many times I’m aware of a decision I’m making that is very deliberate and risky. I’m always in that threshold of fear of making a decision and then just doing it.

It’s one thing to be experimental, and another to completely master artistic honesty and I believe Mabe Fratti has succeeded in both. “Trusting and honouring the right place at the right time”, has guided her to deliver not only a deeply intimate album but a work that lets us revisit a unique world full of unceasingly beautiful moments.

You can stream Mabe Fratti‘s Será Que Ahora Podremos Entendernos below.

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