Mabe Fratti at King’s Place, 21 April 2021

Mabe Fratti is a Guatemalan cellist and composer, based in Mexico. Last year she released a wonderful, entrancing album called Sera Que Ahora Podremos Entendernos. I first heard tracks from it, of course, on BBC 6 Music: Mary Anne Hobbs, Lauren Laverne, Tom Ravenscroft on what was then called 6 Music Recommends – it was all or one of them. Nadie Sabe, the album opener, was my introduction. From there I explored the whole album, and was quickly hooked. I made it No 10 in my albums of 2021, but really, it could have been a lot higher. It was like nothing else I listened to all year. I said this in my review of the the albums of the year:

The album title in English is Will We Be able to Understand Each Other Now? That sense of unease permeates the album as Mabe Fratti’s wistful vocals float over a soundscape of juddering and looped cellos, synths, discordant guitars – and a bit of birdsong! There’s a strange beauty to it, which occasionally brings to mind Kate Bush or even the Cocteau Twins, but really I haven’t heard anything like it before.

And so, when I saw she was playing King’s Place in April, I leapt at the chance to get tickets. I persuaded my wife, Kath, that it would be interesting; and King’s Place is a great place to see any artists, musical or spoken word. It’s near King’s Cross station, sharing the building with the Guardian newspaper, and the two halls have comfortable seats and good acoustics. What’s not to like?

Events got off to a slow start on the night, with the 8.30 start pushed back further. A brief support performance was provided by Australian artist Laila Sakini. The music was mostly pre-recorded, though she played a bit of piano and chanted a little. There was no introduction, so we weren’t sure whether this was part of Mabe Fratti’s set; but it ended after about twenty minutes. After a short break, Mabe came on, accompanied by a guitarist and two keyboard/synth players. Together, I think they were Concepion Huerta – Mabe has made an EP with them recently, called Estatica.

A little confusing; but once the band started up, that was entirely forgotten. The concert was captivating from start to finish. Mabe’s cello playing was amazing, and her voice floated beautifully over the wildness, the rawness of the music. Meanwhile, the guitarist conjured up some extraordinary, meandering sounds, which complemented the musings of her cello. The synths added further layers to the soundscape. It was truly immersive. I couldn’t tell you what they played, though I think there were a few from the 2021 album – if not my favourite, En Medio, as far as I could tell. That’s the one which really brings to mind the Cocteau Twins. Estatica had a full rendition in the second phase of the show. I know this because Mabe told us!

A fantastic concert, an entrancing sound. You don’t need to know the tunes beforehand to find them engrossing. Mabe Fratti herself is visually quite understated, but musically, incredibly powerful. I’ll certainly be looking out for her next visit to these shores.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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