Pendle Coven: Self Assessment
Modern Love

Though Self Assessment is the debut Pendle Coven full-length from Manchester-based duo Gary Howell and Miles Whittaker (aka DJ Miles and MLZ), chances are you've heard some of it already, with five tracks having previously appeared on 12-inch vinyl singles. No matter: that still leaves six new samplings of the group's skeletal take on dubbed-out techno for listeners to dig into (plus a hidden, untitled track) and hearing the other five in this CD context almost feels like hearing them again for the first time. Any thought that Pendle Coven might be simplistically categorized as a one-note outfit is overturned by the album's stylistic range, with the duo adding warm house, banging techno, dubstep, and even ambient electronica (“Golden Hadron”) to its dub-techno offerings.

Following a superfluous soundscape prelude (“Aged Drone”), “Iamnoman” gets the album started proper with a menacing two-chord melody and a slowly swelling techno pulse that begins modestly but soon enough pumps furiously, its elastic kick drum the motor for the cymbal splashes and claps that resound around it. Proving immediately that Self-Assessment is more than an exercise in dub-inflected techno, “Unit 6” opts for a particularly broken take on dubstep. “Uncivil Engineering (CALM Mix)” stretches warm synth pads over the thump of the bass drum and a robust bass part before turning funky with a hiccupping breakdown and then morphing into a driving house cut that's so sleek it's got Detroit and Chicago written all over it.

The duo keeps techno tracks such as the seriously jacking “Modern Mode” stripped to the bone, the material reduced to a svelte blend of beats, bass, and atmospheric melodic accents. Dub-techno tracks such as “Optimal” and “Exigen,” on the other hand, which find Pendle Coven operating in a Basic Channel-like style not unlike the Echospace material recently issued by Deepchord and Soultek, are naturally denser. All things considered, “MVO Chamber” might be the best representative track here, simply because it distills elements from each of Pendle Coven's preferred genres—dub, techno, and house—into a single, eight-minute colossus.

April 2009