Life after lockdown has been a time of creative change for Mabe Fratti. The Guatemalan cellist and composer wrote her second album, 2021’s Será Que Ahora Podremos Entendernos?, while isolating in an artist’s compound outside Mexico City. The nine-track album was a delicate suite of gauzy melodies and keening string lines punctuated by field recordings – an enigmatic music searching for meaning.
On her latest album, Se Ve Desde Aquí, Fratti re-enters the world, recording between Rotterdam and Mexico City and supplanting her supple arrangements with an experimental process that seeks to embrace the rougher edges of self-expression. Recording without overdubs to enhance the power of singular instrumental sounds, Fratti sets a direct and forceful new tone. Opener Con Esfuerzo eschews the cocoon-like tonal warmth of Fratti’s typical layered string sections and soft falsetto, instead placing a reverberating synth line over scattered hits of snares and angular guitar lines. Desde El Cielo continues the staccato feel, with Fratti singing a plaintive melody over a rapidly disintegrating rhythm section.
Much of the album’s fractal tone comes from vintage synths, such as the undulating chords of the Yamaha CS-60 on No Se Ve Desde Acá, or the room-filling buzz of a Korg on Deja De Empujar. Hearing Fratti’s soft vocals atop these jarring textures can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but it also means that when each track finds its unifying harmony, the effect is cathartic and powerful.
It is in these moments – such as in the final minute of Desde El Cielo, where Fratti’s voice soars over washes of cymbals and a bowing cello – that we find joy in her experimental looseness. There might be more noise in this new world, but Fratti has found a way to draw music from the cacophony, to see a distinct beauty in its rawness.
Also out this month
Moves Recordings releases a fantastically fast-paced, dancefloor-focused compilation of Nigerian freebeat music, Cruise!. Mixing the syncopations of footwork percussion with amapiano rhythms, gqom and house, the 20-track album is packed with floor-fillers, peaking on the acid freakout of DJ Stainless’s Kill Them All. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Kutiman effortlessly blends psychedelic guitars with 70s Brazilian jazz melodies on his hook-heavy latest album Open (Siyal Music). The journeying jams of Canoe and A Day Off find Kutiman at his breeziest and most satisfying. DJ and producer Maral’s latest album, Ground Groove (Leaving Records), continues her experimental sampling of Iranian folk and pop records. The interpolations of her source material can sometimes be buried among her electronics, but the eerie vocal samples of Avaz-e-Del and That’s Okay, Ruin It strike the perfect balance between groove and texture.