Mabe Fratti, "Kravitz" (Unheard of Hope) 

Some major changes have taken place in cellist/vocalist Mabe Fratti's music between her appearance at 2022's Freakout Festival and the recording of her new album, Sentir que no sabes (Feel Like You Don't Know). The Mexico City-based Guatemalan artist enlisted producer/arranger Héctor Tosta—with whom she worked on the Titanic project—as well as drummer Gibrán Andrade and trumpeter Jacob Wick to fill out her stark chamber-orchestral pieces. These moves have added heretofore unheard dimensions to Fratti's sound. One of her inspirations, the late avant-dance cellist Arthur Russell, would surely approve.

"Intento fallido" (Failed Attempt) is indicative of Fratti's new, expanded lineup and approach; some really remarkable sonic dynamics, along with unpredictably shifting moods, are actuated here—resignation, stoic determination, triumph. On the moving orchestral-pop tune "Pantalla azul" (Blue Screen Error), Fratti sings (in Spanish) with poise, but you can sense messy emotions struggling to emerge from her controlled delivery. "Angel nuevo" harks back to her more chamber-orchestral tendencies, with shocking bursts of female backing vocals interjected. The addition of emphatic drums doesn't detract from the nuanced orchestrations that Fratti and Tosta finesse.  

"Alarmas olvidadas" (Forgotten Alarms) creeps with trepidation amid a harrowing swath of dissonant strings and percussion, sounding like a Central American, post-Chelsea Girls Nico, but with a better sense of rhythm. Speaking of which, "Elastica II" features huge, pugnacious beats that seem to be transported from New Order's "Blue Monday." Almost comically, they're countered with wispy cello drift. There's a fraught, Morphine-like spareness and vibe to "Enfrente" (In Front), its melancholy draped in a muted grandeur. 

The single "Kravitz" scans as heavy and menacing for Fratti, her cello played at near double-bass timbres, contrasting with her creamy, gorgeous voice. The beats are robust and threatening, another shift in tone for Mabe. What we have here is an emotionally complex dance-floor banger whose BPMs clock in below three figures. (It sounds nothing like Lenny, by the way.) 

Fratti was slated to play Triple Door on July 16, but, unfortunately, it looks as if the show's been canceled. Let's hope another Seattle date gets scheduled this year.

La Paire D'Or, "Evil Embryo" (Hex Enduction Records)

La Paire D'Or members Guy Maddison and Martin Bland have spent most of their musical careers creating ornery hard rock and raunchy garage rock in groups such as Mudhoney, Bloodloss, Lubricated Goat, and Monkeywrench. But with La Paire D'Or, the Seattle/Australia duo prove just as adept with synth-heavy, outward-bound jamming. (Their name translates as Golden Pears, likely a play on DIY, '60s electronic-music innovators Silver Apples. That decision shows very good taste.) 

However, if you know Maddison's recent work with the great Beauty Hunters, La Paire D'Or won't come as too much of a surprise. Beauty Hunters cast ominous, industrial grit over kosmische-synth compositions, recalling pioneers in the field such as Kluster,  Conrad Schnitzler, and Brian Eno/Robert Fripp. Search for their two albums (Muscle Memory and Animal Magmatism) and prepare for an exhilarating departure from reality.

By slight contrast, on their self-titled debut LP, La Paire D'Or create more concise tracks that are powered by actual drums, played by Bland. The result is a more propulsive attack, as evidenced by opening track "X-Ray Girl," whose throbbing electro pop is perfectly pitched between soaring elation and brooding resignation. Bland's beats boom amid the star-dusted synth flares and the icy, dulcet vocals of Lushy's Annabella Kirby, who enhances most of the record's six songs. Mudhoney's Mark Arm guests on vocals, as well.

"Evil Embryo" is an understated suspense-builder conjuring vistas of eerie desolation and astral collapse à la Bernard Szajner's Dune LP, which he cut under the name Zed. The track accelerates into a chunkily rhythmic space-rock beast with anxious synth pulsations and Kirby's Dorothy Moskowitz-like vocals—it's as epic as the climactic scene of your favorite sci-fi movie. A slinky dance number with neck-hair-raising, bell-toned percussion, "Sad and Lonely" is a distant cousin of Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy." A welcome surprise! 

Another left turn occurs on "Slub Monk Chant," sinuous psych-rock filtered through a chaotic synth-noise force field, with said monk chants underpinning every momentous sonic element. If that's Arm doing the chants, then he has more range than anyone imagined.

The clunky dirge "Merde du Chien sur la Paloose" is the least appealing track here, though it does generate a suitably doom-laden atmosphere. However, few things annoy me more than men speaking French on a song. Much better is "Fortune Teller," which uses shaker, tom-toms, and menacing synth whorls and ostinatos to build intensity and chaos until the piece turns into a nail-biting mindfuck. 

Finally, a word about the company releasing this LP. The Hex Enduction label is part of the thriving cultural empire operating out of Lake City's Hex Enduction Records & Books. In addition to being one of Seattle's best record stores, it also includes a publishing arm, produces a quarterly zine, and hosts readings and live music. Hex Enduction's Dean Whitmore, Gabriella Page-Fort, and Tom Ojendyk know what they're doing, and they're doing a lot.