Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti and Frank Rosaly
Photo: GUMO / twnty three

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti and Frank Rosaly’s ‘MESTIZX’ Is a Cosmic Collage

MESTIZX is unquestionably cosmic, but it’s also grounded in the real lives and spaces of artists who refuse to be broken into cultural shards.

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti and Frank Rosaly
International Anthem / Nonesuch
3 May 2024

In her 1987 book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, scholar Gloria Anzaldúa explores in detail experiences of being from two apparently different cultural worlds, both literally (in her case, Mexican and Anglo-American cultural spheres) and figuratively. “A borderland,” she writes, “is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants” (3).

Nearly four decades later, multi-instrumentalists Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti and Frank Rosaly continue interrogating such unnatural and ultimately unsteady boundaries. Now based in Amsterdam, Guardia Ferragutti and Rosaly have complex relationships with their roots, the former having been raised in Bolivia and Brazil and the latter in Arizona by Puerto Rican parents. On their new album, MESTIZX, they reject ideas of identity separation and hybridity, halving and doubling, and instead reflect on the wholeness of their selves through an eclectic collection of words and sounds.

MESTIZX‘s title track exemplifies this. Over the echoes of ascending guitar arpeggios, Guardia Ferragutti recites a series of word pairs to illustrate her struggles in reconciling herself to a lineage including colonizers and colonized: “Soy la herida y la medicina / Soy el problema y soy la respuesta / Soy el veneno y el antídoto,” she sings, naming herself as wound and medicine, problem and solution, poison and antidote. It’s an enchanting invocation of the internal quandaries central to the album, gentle percussion wafting behind a breeze of strings, voice, and keys in relative simplicity.

No two songs are shaped the same. “Mestizx” stays fairly linear, as does “Destejer”, though the latter is particularly rife with variation as keyboards, organs, flute, cornet, and bass swing in and out over intricate rhythms. Every element of “Turbulência” has an off-kilter orbit relative to every other element, an unraveling fitting for a song about breaking cycles. Rosaly’s use of mbira on the opening song “Invocação” and later on “Saber do Mar”, a haunting meditation on the Black Atlantic, evoke transatlantic movements from Africa to Latin America and back, as does his choice to strum an East African krar against rattling percussion and breathy spoken word on closing track “Sirinus”.

Both artists play guiro on the sizzling “Descend”, in which Guardia Ferragutti proclaims that “the future will come forth / An opportunity to shape-shift.” Directly after, “Writing with Knots” bursts with flavors of punk and free jazz. These are only a few of the structures at hand, each a new aspect of the duo’s expansive palette.

It’s not really possible to do justice to the range of textures and themes in the outstanding mixture of MESTIZX. It is worth noting, though, the sheer number of instruments and volume of thought (unquantifiable though it may be) that Guardia Ferragutti and Rosaly put into their record. It could easily be clutter, but instead, it’s a tight mélange of somewhat raw sounds that make up the ground for the duo’s ponderings. There’s not much in the way of special effects or tricky processing, yet the whole package comes across as something unique.

Near the album’s end, “Bless Thee Mundane” features ancestrally inspired artist Viktor Le Givens speaking out a relevant message: “Bless the mundane / As the mundane is the foundation for the cosmic.” MESTIZX is unquestionably cosmic, but it is also grounded in the real lives and spaces of artists who refuse to be broken into cultural shards and instead understand themselves as many things at once.

RATING 8 / 10