Last week we had the pleasure of catching Mabe Fratti on her extensive tour across Europe, this comes 6 months after our first encounter with her music live in Mexico. Here’s a pastiche of what remained tattooed in our brains from both events, on the eve of her visit to Adelaide for the Unsound Festival.
Mabe Fratti has been very busy in the past few years. Starting with the re-release of her acclaimed Pies Sobre La Tierra through Unheard of Hope at the beginning of 2020, she’s built a prolific back catalogue and had 5 albums and EP’s released, featuring the well received Será Que Ahora Podremos Entendernos in 2021 and Se Ve Desde Aquí in 2022, which included collaborators such as Claire Rousay on the first one and her current live band on the latter. This list also includes joint efforts with Gudrun Gut and Concepción Huerta separately, and several works and remixes for other artists.
The planets aligned and we managed to be there for her first performance of 2023, in the middle of January; 2022 left behind a year of extensive touring across North America and Europe, with highlights like the festivals Rewire and Le Guess Who. We were ready for the real deal: Mabe Fratti in the first of 2 sold out gigs right in the center of the pulsating Mexico City. The excuse: a presentation of Se Ve Desde Aquí in full band mode featuring Jarrett Gilgore, Gibrán Andrade and Héctor Tosta. The venue itself turned into a fundamental part of the experience that proved holistic, which could be due to its exceptional features that made it hard to find -inside a residential apartment, resulting in us asking neighbors for directions-, or how packed and warm it was inside, or because of the breath of fresh air provided by the rooftop terrace equipped with a pizza oven. Despite this an exceptional tone was set and the acoustics and sound were impressive. It felt testimonial of a thriving and growing scene of which Fratti is not the only example, but definitely one of the best.
Intense and hypnotic from the beginning, the set was proof that Mabe Fratti has been absorbing and processing a varied range of interesting music throughout her career, keeping her eyes and ears open due to a constant need to express the otherworldly. Se Ve Desde Aquí is both a different approach towards recording her cello, and an expansion of her own sonic spectrum. Gibrán Andrade on drums and Jarret Gilgore on saxophone together with the guitar layering and pedals from Héctor Tosta provided an ever morphing scenario where Fratti moved from ethereal glimpses of beauty to deep and reverberating layers of heavy sonic textures.
Through these, either ascending or descending waves, we were hypnotized by her build-ups and the symbiosis between the 4 musicians improvising in a laid back atmosphere. The esoteric ‘Desde El Cielo’ was a clear example, and one of our peaks of the night, with Gilgore and Andrade fully possessed, offering krautrock vibes. Another personal favourite was the rendition of ‘Hacia El Vacío’, with the contrast between the rising noise and the sweetness of her voice striking a chord.
A lot has passed for Mabe Fratti since then, and this includes several shows in Mexico, a full stream on KEXP, supporting Ben Howard at the Royal Albert Hall in London and performing at the iconic Paradiso in Amsterdam. Her show in Barcelona took place in El Pumarejo, where she gathered a respectable audience in the outskirts of the city. Due to the logistics of touring Europe in the middle of Summer, only Fratti and Tosta made it to the concert, resulting in a different version of her music, a more intimate one.
Whereas our first experience was in a sweaty and packed venue, leaning against a wall and absolutely transfixed by the psychedelic effects of the performance as a whole, our latest meeting with her music took place sitting on the floor, very close to a stage adorned with candles, able to witness the appearance of that new being, formed by Fratti and her cello. The result of the duo with Héctor Tosta was a good contrast between her organic soul and his noise ambitions, and his sonic palette consisting of guitar manipulations, live vocoder, pedals and effects, reminding us of some of Throbbing Gristle’s best moments.
The cello is known for having a similar range with the human voice, and Mabe Fratti creates alchemy with it, by complementing it with her own singing and layering synths to create a unique third sound, making you feel that her instrument is a natural extension of her intentions. It’s in pieces like ‘Aire’ where she morphs and transcends, touching a delicate thread and leaving the audience with a feeling of change. Her rendition of ’Puedo Hacer Algo’ felt like a ritualistic chant that grew over a sea of minimalistic ostinatto-like motifs.
It’s been said that the resplendent quetzal, national bird of Guatemala and symbol of freedom known for its melodic tone, sings best on cloudy dawns and misty afternoons, and we have a similar feeling with Guatemalan-born Mabe Fratti.
Article by A. Sixta & Paranoid