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EP Review: Ali Barter 'AB-EP'

The ‘AB-EP’, Melbourne singer/songwriter Ali Barter’s third EP offering, represents some of her most varied work to date, and illustrates her readiness for a debut album. Indeed, for a Triple J Unearthed winner, Ali can be considered to have moved at a cautious rate, building skills and credibility incrementally rather than audaciously.

This considered pace in fact suits her music well introspective lyrical and musical style. The six songs of this EP allow her scope, although necessarily limited, to shape a narrative as well as showcasing her talents. It tells the stories of a suburban Melbourne existence, and existential considerations of love and youthful innocence, the sort that Courtney Barnett relates with such success. HOLY HOLY’s Oscar Dawson, whom Ali reprises her relationship with after he also produced and co-wrote 2014’s ‘Community’ EP, is an able offsider in fleshing out these sorts of stories, and brings a sense of scope and perspective. Ironically, it is this consistency and dependability of a regularly reappearing cast of collaborating musicians that has allowed Ali Barter to produce her most stylistically varied work to date.

Lead track and single Blood rises like a zombie out of an electronic synth haze, before being punctuated with a riff post-punkish in its satisfying simplicity. This driving melody, when joined by the piercing clarity of Ali’s voice and a shuffling rhythm, makes this the indisputable track of the EP. This emphasis on melody and the sugar-sweet harmonies are reminiscent of ‘Pale Silver & Shiny Gold’, the 2010 album by Swedish dream pop outfit Sad Day for Puppets. Hypercolour is positioned much closer to the sensible-centre of Australian indie-pop sensibilities, confirmed when the chorus breakdown explodes into quirky synth, before returning to a seductive conversational tone. Even in the song structure I am reminded of Megan Washington, particularly her latest album ‘There There’ (2014). Not that this is a bad thing; Megan is currently one of the most inspired and consistently brilliant songwriters in Australia currently. Hypercolour also provides the first echoes of the country/ folk influences that feature heavily in ‘AB-EP’, continued in third track Ode 2 Summa, which contrasts the typically pleasant topic of summer with dark harmonies and insecure platitudes. They hardly compare, though, with the haunting, underwater refrains of I Ask for So Little, which really ought to be the next single; one of the pleasant surprises of the EP is that Ali has some pretty wicked grunge sensibilities, another string to add to the bow. ‘AB-Eps’ final two tracks, It’s Not Real and If You Go, represent a final tonal shift into murky, introspective alt-pop.

All told, the ‘AB-EP’ is an exciting release, pin-balling generically between grunge, alt, pop and rock. If she will probably want to narrow down those styles to only a couple for when she gets around to an LP, then it is nice to know that no doors remain closed to this musical chameleon. 

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