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Speech Act Theory - Speech Act Theory - EP Review: Speech Act Theory

18 Oct 2023 // A review by Madeleine Howard

Auckland based alt-electronica project Speech Act Theory released their debut self-titled EP on the 29th of September.

Founded in 2019, Speech Act Theory is the brain child of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Pete Hickman. The debut single Holding Out was released in August 2021, followed by four more singles and a remix, all leading up to the release of the EP. After enlisting the help of his live band, the group went on to open for Danish electronic artist Trentemoller at the Powerstation in June this year.

The EP features a collection of well-produced, downtempo cinematic soundscapes. We open with eerie Harder For Yourself, which eases out of its distorted electronic sounds into more clean instrumentation. The track is a slow burner, and while it builds nicely, it feels like it doesn't quite get to where it's wanting to go. A greater climax would be most welcome, along with greater dynamic variation.

A distorted acoustic guitar hook leads us into Next Time, along with a switch from Hickman's vocals to vocals from Brodie McDonald. Her vocals are clear, with luscious harmonies that create a nice shift from the opening track. Electric guitar riffs reminiscent of U2 cut through the vocals, although I can't help but feel that the vocal melodies are somewhat forgettable, with not a lot of variation. Again, I'm left wanting more of a climax, as I was with track one.

Third track Binary gives us an instrumental break that would be well suited as an audio accompaniment to a time-lapse sequence, with its cinematic tendencies. Suburban Crowns sees a return to Hickman's vocals and has a real atmospheric feel to it. Closing track Time To Go has more of a push than its predecessors, with that climax that I found myself longing for in previous tracks. The combination of female and male vocals, plus a change in tempo, are a welcome release from the more relaxed previous tracks, and as a result it's a great conclusion to the EP and a real highlight.

Admittedly, this is not my preferred genre of music and as a lover of all things pop, I found myself longing for more climaxes and catchy melodies, but I understand that's not necessarily the way of downtempo electronic music. I have a sense that Speech Act Theory is the kind of music that translates better to a live setting rather than a recorded one, and given the opportunity, I'd love to see what they can do on the live stage.

 

About Speech Act Theory

With artful cadences that catch you off guard with every diaphanous progression, the Auckland-based alt-electronica pseudo-trip-hop outfit Speech Act Theory and the moniker of Pete Hickman provides fitting soundscapes to sonically visualise the process of acceptance and prevailing.

What started as a cathartic studio project in 2019 for the multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer quickly evolved beyond the studio, which saw Speech Act Theory play their biggest live show to date, supporting Trentemoller at the Powerstation in Auckland in June 2023.

At his core, far deeper than the proliferated comparisons to Massive Attack, Portishead, and Thom Yorke, Hickman writes through what resonates, exhibiting an intimate and honest interconnection to his vulnerability through his self-produced records.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Speech Act Theory

Releases

Speech Act Theory
Year: 2023
Type: EP

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