Over the years Pendle Coven have tasted and attempted a range of styles from IDM, breakbeat, dubstep and of course minimal dub techno. Strangely or not then, Self Assessment doesn't cross as much terrain as the explorations of the past would suggest. The vast majority of what is presented here is smooth, almost loungey dub techno with lithe watery textures and shimmering, mirrored horizons. The more overt dubstep inspired "Unit 6" and the broken beat patterns of the Calm remix of "Uncivil Engineering" are the only exception to the more clandestine tidal ambience that permeate the rest of the tracks. Not coincidentally, they're also the album's least confident moments.
With this in mind it isn't easy to determine the sentiment of the album, or the exact context in which the title should be taken. At face value, Self Assessment could easily be understood as a time to take stock of the past, present and future. The fact that it is not an album per se, but a collection of tracks would seem testament to this. But mixing five new pieces with six recycled or reversioned tracks means it isn't a greatest hits package or a logical collection like Claro Intelecto's Warehouse Sessions either. More so, since there is the absence of representation from many of the earlier EPs, while last year's Iamnoman is presented in its entirety.
One advantage of the selective revision is that the overall fluidity generates unbroken sensations of visionary waters and subliminal trances. Pulling highlights from this miasma is difficult since Self Assessment comes together remarkably well as a whole. Some limited sequencing of tracks also helps this, as does the inclusion of "Aged Drone" and its processed guitars as a short, but evocative introduction to set the mood. Similarly, bookending proceedings with the set's feistiest tune, "Exigen" from the Iamnoman EP, lets the newer tracks keep their shape without stalling their restless currents.
For those hesitant to fork out for this handful of new tracks, the material at least will not disappoint. The ambient piece "Chord Calculus" bubbles and trickles like a neutral mental stream while the corrugated Basic Channel rips and curls of "MVO Chamber" will pull anyone under the spell of the sharp and fluttering percussion. Meanwhile, "Optimal" languishes longingly in opium dreams.
But while Self Assessment is undoubtedly a solid collection of tracks that will win many new fans, it still seems like only part of the picture. Who or what Pendle Coven will be remains to be seen, but from the strength of the material, we can assume the best of and a "best of" are yet to come.