Mabe Fratti Sentir Que No Sabes

Unheard of Hope
28th June 2024

Format Info

LP - Terracoa colour vinyl

A sense of destiny hangs over Sentir Que No Sabes, Mabe Fratti’s fourth solo-credited album released in a five year span. Her work has always possessed a finely tuned sense of drama capable of expressing a range of emotional states, and across this new album, she conveys the struggle to process various relationships or situations–and the actions that come next. Sentir Que No Sabes is urgent and clear, poppy, generous and approachable, while showcasing a considerable emotional hinterland. It is also, as Fratti is quick to mention, “groovy.” Written and recorded with her partner, multi-instrumentalist, and co-composer Héctor Tosta (I.La Católica, Titanic), Sentir Que No Sabes is the result of an intense, detail-oriented process. Fueled by a new confidence gained in their collaborative project, Titanic, and its critically acclaimed 2023 LP, Vidrio, the two hunkered down in the familiarity of their studio (aka Tinho Studios) to bash out the initial sonic coordinates of her new record. “We talked and talked, and discussed ways of playing and recording, until things became inevitable,” Fratti explains. “We recorded a bunch of demos at our home studio and that meant we had a lot of time to re-edit and experiment. We really dug in. We were super focused on detail.” Tosta also took up the controls as producer and arranger-in-chief for all additional instruments. The album was later completed at Willem Twee Studios in Den Bosch in the Netherlands, and Pedro y el Lobo Studios and Soy Sauce Studios, in Mexico City. For the final studio recordings, the pair were joined by drummer Gibran Andrade and trumpetist Jacob Wick to fill out and expand on Tosta’s percussion and brass arrangements. This small group of friends were able to work quickly and openly, and without fear: a testament to the exhaustive groundwork put in at Tinho Studios. This can be heard in three short, intermediary tracks that also manage to be the most aggressive on the record: “Kitana” (a scratch-laden instrumental that acts as a strange prelude for the last track, “Angel nuevo”) and a pair of two-minute instrumental interludes, “Elastica” I and II. None are throwaway mood pieces; rather they act as emotional cue cards, and hint at the way Fratti and Tosta created the overall atmosphere of Sentir Que No Sabes. A strong sense of rhythm irrigates the sound from the jump, as heard on the glorious opening track, “Kravitz.” Here, the brilliant plucked cello line acts as a bassline and props up the steady thump of the kick drum. The cello’s growl serves as a conduit for a set of slightly paranoid lyrics that tell us “Quizás haya oídos en el techo” (“maybe there are ears in the ceiling”), while the song also introduces another staple of the record: the clever brass stabs, whistles, parps, and other interjections that paint a canvas of traffic in a city. It’s a postmodern, widescreen sound that for some might recall The Blue Nile’s Hats. Sentir Que No Sabes is a record full to the brim with a modern pop sensibility, invoked by the sort of magpie spirit that ensnares anything it can find, repositioning sounds for the here and now. The keys and melody on the melancholy “Pantalla azul” (“Blue screen error”) transport us back to the glossy mid-1980s. “Oídos” (“Ears”) is a beautiful slice of contemporary, hybrid pop, in which Fratti’s vocal lines delicately spin themselves around the lean structures erected by the brass and drums, and the descending “plink” of a set of piano chords. Then we have a gloriously strong ending with the swell of “Angel nuevo” (“New angel”), another cinematic track full of gentle, instrument-rich swells and eddies that manages to be almost endless in its range–and yet intensely personal, as Fratti’s voice is close, almost whispering in your ear. A much needed lullaby for our fractious times. The lyrics, for their part, have a stop-start quality to them, and hint at the small, incremental emotional taxes we pay through just living our lives. They circle around the music like birds waiting to swoop. There is something of the spiritual in all of Fratti’s work that expresses itself in a form of yearning: she looks to new horizons while personal dramas find themselves internalized, contextualized, and then dealt with through metaphor. Here, she was keen to mention Tosta’s constant encouragement in her finding a path to best sing or phrase her words to impart their maximum effect. “Hector was super inquisitive about my lyrics and asked me questions about what I meant, which sometimes is something you don’t wonder so much about in isolation,” Fratti explains. “Besides, he is a great poet, and you can see that in what he did on the Titanic record. This made me go deeper into my lyric writing and definitely transformed it into something that I feel super happy about now.” Take “Enfrente” (“In Front”), a track that initially comes across as a languid, glossy number, with plucked cello strings standing in for a bass line and brittle synth parts. Soon we catch on to a brilliant minor chord switch, which mirrors the fear and doubt expressed in the lyrics as someone “trembles up to the podium” in a “search for meaning.” There’s also the startling introduction of a vocoder in “Quieras o no” (“Whether you want it or not”); it comes precisely at the point Fratti sings “Quieras o no es un desastre” (“Whether you want it or not, it’s a disaster”). Moments like these leave room for interpretation and, over time, create a strong bond between the listener and the record. In fact, across Sentir Que No Sabes, each phrase–whether instrumental or vocal–becomes at some level emblematic of acts and moods that impart deep emotional significance. We see this best on “Intento fallido” (“Failed attempt”), which could be the score to feeling trapped in self-doubt, only to suddenly be sprung free by the song’s gloriously upbeat ending. On “Márgen del índice” (“Index margin”), the quicksilver switch between initial disharmony and a beautiful melody is breathtaking, all augmented by evocative arrangements, textured production, and the slightly playful, gnomic lyrics. The track’s emotional ecosystem allows another brilliant ending, which uses the simple repeated phrase, “Cómo lo va a ver?” (“How are you going to see it?”). So what to make of Sentir Que No Sabes? High gloss Pastoralism? The sound of a city-bound, post-post modern soulscape? No matter the emotions evoked, it’s the work of an artist coming into their own, and creating a benchmark record.