Mabe Fratti, a Spark in Mexico City’s Experimental Music Scene

While Fratti credits the bulk of her growth as an artist to her involvement with the Mexico City scene, she first became interested in improvisation at a neo-Pentecostal megachurch back home in Guatemala, a giant concrete building now known as City of God.

“The cello would come in during the sad songs and the pastor would tell me to play, so I played,” she recalled as she puffed on a pastel vape, her dark blue hoodie bunched around her neck. “I was improvising with zero knowledge of improvisation.” Eventually, she started making her own songs and posting them on SoundCloud.

In 2015, organizers at the Goethe-Institut, a German cultural nonprofit, stumbled upon Fratti’s work online and invited her to take part in one of their international artist-in-residence programs, where she met the Mexican noise artist Julian Bonequi. He showed her a video of the South Korean cellist Okkyung Lee performing, and invited Fratti to his radio station, where she encountered the Barcelona-born musician Don Malfon, who was playing solo, improvised sax.

“To me this was mind-boggling,” Fratti said, grinning, her eyes narrowing mischievously. “My experience with experimental music up until that point in Guatemala was with a quartet, which was more academic, but this was very free, and you know, kind of punk.”

A similar sense of urgency courses through Fratti’s new album. She and Tosta, who produced the project, began working on it as soon as the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1. “We started and didn’t stop,” she said. “It was super intense, sometimes to the point of being dizzying.”

“Sentir Que No Sabes” features Fratti’s signature plucky cello and haunting vocal arrangements, but it also finds the artist at her “grooviest,” as she put it. While she usually takes a melody-first approach, a strong rhythmic base underpins most of this album, inspired by what she called pop “bangers”: Lenny Kravitz’s “romantic stuff,” tracks by Alice in Chains, the Argentine rocker Charly García and Peter Gabriel.

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