Sara Ontaneda Brings it all together on “Separated By the Sea”

By Deuce

The most striking thing about “Separated by the Sea”, the latest single from singer/songwriter/musician Sara Ontaneda, has got to be her voice. At times powerful, pure, crystalline, and plaintive, it tells you right away she appears to have a legitimate career in music in the making—or perhaps has had one for a couple years now.

Those who’ve heard Acoustic Soul, the debut album from india.arie, might find it difficult to not compare this latest track from Ontaneda, which is actually the third single in support of a forthcoming album, to some of the finer work on the former. The acoustic guitar that starts and ends the track is perhaps the best example of this fact.

It rambles along, similar to the plashing and gurgling of a rivulet, leading the singer through the songs’ various stages. During the verses it’s at least doubled up, perhaps with one as the lead and the other as the rhythm, wending its way among the four-on-the-floor staple drum track that guides the tune for the better part of its duration. The scattering of the rim shot every couple bars only heightens the similarity to—and perhaps even appeal of—some of arie’s earlier work.

The number blossoms well during the hook as the drums open up to a less conventional pattern, adorned by the intermittent wailing of synths. This distinction showcases the key change in the guitar, credited to Ontaneda herself, as she belts out the chorus.

The guitarist’s instrumentation is paired with the drumming of Fabio Rojas, who shines particularly bright during the transitions and the tune’s denouement—a breakdown in which the singer laments lost time. With Rojas banging on what sounds like tom toms this is easily the most emotional period of the effort, aside from the final few seconds in which Ontaneda appears to be adlibbing about the same theme.

The cast of characters on the track is rounded out by Akos Forgacs on the bass and Hayley Lam tickling the keys, which counterpoints the guitar strumming effectively during part of the verses. The cut was co-produced by Ontaneda and features her brother Sebastian as the lead producer. Its genius is in recalling a time, perhaps even nostalgia itself, when people were much closer than they seem to be at present.

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