Just after a few minutes of what could very well be clanging guitar pickups and restrained feedback, Manchester, UK producer duo Pendle Coven gets down into it. The part previously released, part new minimal dub techno (and related sound artistry) on Self-Assessment is more comforting than it is menacing. Pendle Coven members DJ Miles and MLZ often leave corners gaping, only to then flood them with grim melodies and long-loitering claps, so that when these works don’t mystify with headphones-geared ambience, they offer respectable late-night listening.
Five of the Self-Assessment pieces won’t be new to Modern Love followers. This is the debut full-length from Pendle Coven, functioning also as a sampler of their 12″ releases, beginning with 2005’s Marriage of Convenience EP. “Modern Mode”, a Marriage B-side, thankfully appears for the first time on CD here. Its comparatively “bigger” presence owes to a pugnacious house kick and hi hats, while warm, disconnected synth swells float up around the percussion, not unlike DeepChord’s Vantage Isle Sessions or Claro Intelecto’s more direct dancefloor work.
In a flurry of aquatic echoes and clipped, jagged-edged beats, Pendle Coven’s 2005-era dubstep effort goes over powerfully. “Unit 6” shifts and shudders over its four and a half minutes, with an understated wobble and clinks that wouldn’t sound out of place on Scuba’s A Mutual Antipathy. It’s severe, and after having heard this one, I’d honestly wondered why these guys don’t produce more dubstep. Although the Self-Assessment collection won’t catch on immediately for non-dub techno enthusiasts — when one finally warms to it, Pendle Coven’s sound pays off in textured, interesting subtlety.