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Mabe Fratti ‘Sentir que no sabes’ (Album Review)

Sentir que no sabes, the fourth solo album from Guatemalan cellist, singer, and composer Mabe Fratti, follows in the multi-textural, experimental footsteps of her previous releases. But from the opening track, ‘Kravitz’, with its groove- locked drums and hammering piano, a more harmonious, chamber-pop sound cuts through. Topline melodies occupy the same sonic space as alt-pop acts like Caroline Polachek or Christine and the Queens, only Fratti’s compositions are less tightly woven and don’t concern themselves as much with catchy choruses or memorable melodies. Instead she opts to explore an emotion to its final conclusion, creating wide-spanning ambiences and environments instead of fleeting, euphoric destinations.

Lyrically, the album returns to themes of uncertainty and indecision, the title itself translating to ‘To feel like you don’t know’. We hear this sentiment through the instrumental too. Drums in ‘Intento Fallido’ lull us into a false sense of rhythm before dissipating into a flatline, while ‘Descubrimos un suspiro’ opens with a jazzy bass line and ride cymbals, before samba whistles and military brass motifs are replaced with legato strings and a deep kick drum, as if even the instruments can’t arrive at a conclusion.

What remains ever present on this album is Fratti’s cello, often plucked as if it were a bass but also taking on many different forms as she bows, layers, and distorts her instrument in increasingly creative ways. This is perfectly exemplified in ‘Kitana’, which sees Fratti bouncing her bow off strings to create frenetic, eerie vibrations over a deep distorted bass and clinging church bells. All of the orchestration feels this live and organic, only occasionally punctuated with interesting synthesisers or percussion sounding like dustbins or shards of metal falling into a heap.

Mabe Fratti – Pantalla Azul (Official video / visualiser)

Even these remain rooted in the real world, perhaps resembling the ambient soundscapes of a busy Mexico City, where Matti lives and records her work.

Compared with her 2022 record, Se Ve Desde Aquí, Sentir que no sabes is more minimalist in its approach, opting for fewer individual musical components but still achieving a similar level of drama. While Fratti may be uncertain about many of life’s hardships and philosophical quandaries, she displays a compositional confidence that seems to suggest she and her cello, which sound as if they are one, know exactly who they are and what they’re capable of.

Sentir que no sabes is out on Unheard of Hope on Friday 28th June. Pre-order on Bandcamp here.

Main Photo Credit: Melissa Lunar

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