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With an opening like the intro to a 90’s cult classic film, if Ali Barter’s new EP were a movie, it’s one we’d like to see. Heavy with summer and teenage daze, AB-EP is evocative both lyrically and in its instrumentation.
The third EP release from Ali Barter, AB-EP brings together a now regular band of musicians to support Barter’s vision; touring and honing live sets together before taking material into the studio. Co-written and co-produced by Oscar Dawson (Holy Holy), who worked on her previous EP Community, this new effort brings six tracks that shine somewhere between the throwback grunge that Barter grew up listening to, and a new alt-pop.
Armed with a deadly lyrical arsenal and an attitude to match, Ali Barter is at her powerhouse best on her latest AB-EP.
Lead track, and latest single, Blood opens with a guitar riff that makes you want to watch films like Empire Records, it’s also worth mentioning the luxurious, minute long intro comprised of resonating synth organs and light distortion. Lending an almost religious tone before the track launches, it’s a prelude to the personal depth that really raises AB-EP.
Barter’s vocals float over the guitar line with the sweet apathy of 90’s rock, mirroring that same feel in lyrics like chorusing “Your blood don’t get me high”, and end refrains around “We are all nameless”. Straight beats along with major / minor chord progressions all add to the grunge influence, and call up bands like Air and Hole in their mellower moments.
Leading into the first single off AB-EP, following track Hypercolour has a pop feel with glitchy bass and guitar. Carrying more pace than Blood, this is probably the most danceable song on the EP. It’s an easy comparison to draw between the driving pace and synth heavy arrangement with 80’s styles, but that would be too easy with Hypercolour.
There’s more of an indie aspect to the racing beats and electric guitar, synthesisers sit further back and shiver through with thrills that serve to lift the song along with just the hint of a guitar solo. Barter’s vocals are a light touch but sit comfortably against the faster arrangement, with a particularly nice spoken bridge that has a retro, human touch.
I Ask For So Little and If You Go are both quieter moments, but really strong tracks on AB-EP. Refreshing in it’s simplicity, there’s a nice definition between verse and chorus on I Ask For So Little. Again the relaxed performance on this one drips with the apathy inherent in grunge, but also hypnotises with a slow beat, measured strumming and choral backing vocals. Barter is a really strong female presence as an artist, and this is really what is so emulative of all those grunge icons like Juliana Hatfield and Courtney Love.
Belied by her sweet toned vocal, her performance blends girly helplessness with a darker confidence and a possessive angst. Sweetly intoning “I ask for so little” followed by “Do as I say and I promise I’ll never leave”, it’s the classic honey-voiced kinderwhore. Grateful for the artists who had set a precedent for women to share their anger, Barter uses her lyric writing as a release; “I had to get the words out of me or else I would explode!… Thank god for music otherwise I might be in jail!”
If You Go has a different sparsity to I Ask For So Little; heavily reverbed vocals sit over a lyrical guitar line that pushes out into a more psychedelic sound than other tracks. With a slow paced chorus, the track builds to an epic sphere, set back more in the mix on this one, Barter’s vocals have no problem matching the bigger sound. The eery It’s Not Real is really reminiscent of artists like The Cranberries, with a more pensive vocal and affecting lyrics set against simple strummed guitar.
All the instrumental elements come together to support Barter’s vocal lead; gently waving synths underneath the warm guitar tones and choral backing vocal. This one forms a truly lovely moment before final track Ode 2 Summa. Once you get past the irritating text speak title, it starts to feel fitting against this alt anthem that is absolutely laden with killer heat and teen dreams.
With an intro that touches on Grease’s Summer Lovin’, dreamy vocals speak of heavy summer daze and lazy young lust; “Too hot to fuck”. Continually building on that initial riff, it’s an addictive track that culminates with a surprising but brilliantly impressive Kate Bush style vocal from Barter.
AB-EP is a genuinely impressive release from Ali Barter, partly in that it is beautifully written and executed. But also in her inherent character and lyricism; replete with mended heartbreak and nostalgia, Barter is the girl from the movies that you always wanted to be in high school [with]. It’s not the knowing, sassy girl of today but the moody, cool girl of a different era. Whether it’s the 90’s throwback or the teenage emotion that gets you high, AB-EP hits something pretty powerful.
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