Hacia el Vacío

by Mabe Fratti

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.


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.


INTERVIEW

1. How did your time in La Orduña influence this Album?

This was a moment of reconnecting with my body and reconnecting with loved ones in a moment of a lot in confusion, the first months of the pandemic. I had been very paranoid as many of us were back then. I had the privilege to go to this big space with bandmates, we were all locked in this huge factory space. I remember I said I’d just bring my equipment because I had work to do and if something happened, something happened. Then it was around the second week of being there that I was just jamming with the guys from Tajak and Pedro Tirado, when I came up with an idea for a song that turned out to be the one that unleash the rest of the songs. I think having this music dialogues, jamming most of the day with friends, besides the incredible environment of la fábrica was part of the important energy that fueled me creating the album.

2. What is it that inspires you about Mexico City?

It is an incredibly energetic city and there’s so much you can see when you walk around here. Food here also is amazing. When I came here, something I just couldn’t stop was going to events. Seeing people improvising here is something that inspired and still inspires me. People themselves, I’ve met so many friends that I consider very important for my learning process.

3. How was your writing process affected by the use of lyrics on this album?

I had a topic in mind: the issues of communication, the many ways we can tell something and how clumsy we can become when trying to do so. Having this topic in mind, lyrics kind of start flowing in with ease. Now, looking back I still think I was kind of restraining myself. I want to be bolder with lyrics, I think this will come with time, but I’m aiming for more freedom in my writing process.


4. Please tell us a bit about this notion of ‘diagramation’

When I talk about diagramation I talk about the arrangement of things in a space. Like how things are settled in a room, or how a drawing is arranged when they tell you “draw a landscape” and they try to analyze you from that. I love to see how things are arranged, and this is something that we can see happen in everything.

Like the way you talk, the way you write, the way you place a sound in the song. And then, how this order creates a meaning.

5. What are the challenges involved in merging organic instrumentation with electronic elements?

I think these sounds can be really good partners because they can generate a beautiful contrast. Personally, the challenge might be how I can let in the mix this contrast to be evident and noticed. However, this is something about taste.

6. Tell us about the influence of Tajak on the aesthetic of this album.

I was hanging out with these guys all day, in the same space, they were mixing their upcoming album so we were listening to each other’s music all the time. I collaborated with them in a couple of tracks, and I was always calling them to the room to ask them for feedback. They weren’t impositive at all, but for sure being playing with them all the time for sure influenced me in a manner I still can’t point out consciously though. I can tell, however, that there was a time I was listening to a track they were mixing and I started jamming with it from the other side of the house and I came up with the track of my upcoming album “Mil formas de decirlo”.

7. Was your experience of learning the cello in an academic setting a positive one?

I think yes, kind of. But I think an important step I did (not a very pro one though) was to get out of the academy and just step into the more informal creation of music that led me to a lot of trial and error that I think still goes on today but has led me to create some tracks I feel happy about.

8. Finally, tell us a bit about how the notion of letting down boundaries is explored through this project.

Especially for this album, I think the versatility of it, of doing tracks and letting myself just explore the many ways I could do these songs and not thinking about the concept of “consistency” for sounds was a boundary I let down here for sure. This is something that is still in my mind when I listen to it








CREDITS

Artist/ Earl Elliot