I’m New Here – Mabe Fratti

The best avant-garde pop cellist since Arthur Russell

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Mabe Fratti is ready for her close-up. “My music is like when you see yourself in a really good mirror and you see all the pores in your skin – I love that,” says the in-demand Guatemalan cellist and singer, from her home in Mexico City. “Not sure I would want a picture of me like that, but I like that in my sound.”


Fratti’s most recent solo album fits that description. Released a year ago, Se Ve Desde Aqui (It Is Seen From Here) uses cello, voice and synthesiser to give a gracefully gnarly account of Fratti pushing herself In a new direction after two earlier albums of more ethereal work. “I’m not a royal academy cellist or whatever, so given my technical limitations, I try to be very raw with the sound. I like the dirtiness… it’s who I am.”


As an artist, Fratti is hard to pigeonhole. Avant-garde but accessible, the 31-year-old straddles the worlds of classical, jazz and experimental music. As such, she’s spent much of this year on tour, travelling to Australia and across Europe, including a two-day residency at London’s Café Oto in August that left audiences speechless.

By chance, three records she’s closely involved with are being released in quick succession. The first is Vidrio by Titanic – a delightful album of baroque pop and exploratory jazz that foregrounds Fratti’s voice as she sings her partner Hector Tosta’s poetic lyrics. They recorded some of the record in their apartment, known as Tinho Studios, and chose the name Titanic because it sounds “decadent and elegant – and maybe we sound like this because we are not elegant at all,” she laughs.

Next up is the sprawling art-rock of Amor Muere’s Love, A Time To Die, which Fratti recorded two years ago in Mexico City with bandmates Gibrana Cervantes, Concepcion Huerta and Camile Mandoki. “We’re all expressing ourselves in a very free way,” says Fratti, “trusting in the ideas of others.” Finally, on Phét Phét Phét’s Shimmer, she improvised cello and vocals for Jarett Gilmore’s jazz-pop fusion group, which again gelled around sessions in Mexico City.


“There’s something very special about the chaotic and DIY culture here in Mexico City,” she says. “It’s such a big place that there’s a DIY scene for everything. It’s a big mix.” She was drawn there in 2015 after growing up in Guatemala City, where she took up the cello as a child after seeing her sister play the violin. “I wanted to play the saxophone but I had breathing problems and there was always a lot of snot,” she recalls. Raised Protestant by her engineer parents, Fratti learned to express herself with her cello in church – “I really enjoyed playing the scores, and I would improvise with chords and play what I wanted” – while also playing in bands inspired by Radiohead and Nirvana.

The idea for her next solo record Sentir Que No Sabes, she says, is to “make something very groovy” and so she’s been digging into Arthur Russell and, er, Lenny Kravitz. “The first time I heard Arthur Russell I went crazy, I love him. Some of my new parts are very Russelliano. And I had a couple of weeks where I was obsessed with Lenny Kravitz and listened to him on repeat, so there’ll be some Kravitz on there – but very far from what he would do, of course.”

Sentir Que No Sabes is released on June 28 by Unheard Of Hope

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