CD Review-Sarah Pasillas-Demo Part 2

Armed with only a steel-string acoustic guitar, her voice, and a multi-track guitar, Sarah Pasillas  fleshes out completed songs in a style that ranges from subdued, dulcet plucking to full-on bashing at the strings and belting her voice out with remarkable control. Throughout it all, she retains her own character and employs a vocabulary and phrasing that express more than trite cliché.

Throughout these six tracks, Pasillas really plays with dynamics effectively, but her highs really shine. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an amateur singer with this kind of power and control accompanied solely by an acoustic guitar, and it sounds good, not just like she’s shouting over some chords. This is featured prominently on tracks Letterbomb and Quiet Days. Both these songs grab the listener with a commanding presence while still keeping things lively during the less ‘exciting’ passages. Instead of telling the listener ‘you can space out until I get loud again’ she draws you in and commands the listening experience with a deft hand.

The shortcomings of this EP are minor and forgivable given the nature of the media. It sounds like she just set up a mic (or even just sat next to a laptop) and hit record in Garage Band, laying down an extra vocal or punching in a transition here and there. As such, the production is lacking, but actually not bad. Everything is clear and the sounds are pretty good, but there are places where any kind of production oversight would have reined in some wild peaks and distorting vocals. Also having to do with the ‘one take’ approach, her transitions from highs to lows sometimes leave the quieter passages lacking the strength and consistency of the louder ones. When following a soaring chorus, it’s a letdown to land in a soft passage where she seems to be searching for some of the notes and doesn’t have the most defined delivery of certain lines.

But this is a demo, and the songs are excellent, her guitar playing is an asset, and when her voice is on point these songs hint at something really great. As it is, they’re enjoyable, slightly impressive, and mostly very interesting. The gentle adoption of elements of many genres, from blues to pop to more musically rich stylings, really keeps you guessing and allows the album to not wear on the listener. At the end of 6 acoustic-vocal tracks, I’m usually pretty bored and tired. I gave this album another listen, instead. It’s not so much that I’m now a huge fan, there was just a healthy amount of content in the songs, and they aren’t cheaply assembled at all. If a solo acoustic EP can stand up to repeated listening, that says a lot.