Release Date: Jul 5, 2011
Record label: Green Owl Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
CHLLNGR—replete with uber-trendy vowelless name—operates somewhere in the heretofore neglected realm between "bass music" and the kind of red-eyed nocturnal R&B so beloved by that sector. (Think The Weeknd, Drake and so forth.) But instead of merely making vague references or putting out unofficial remixes, Copenhagen-based Steven Jess Borth II produces his own brand of the dark stuff altogether, viewed through the eyes of a staunch dub fanatic. On his debut album Haven, Borth alternates between filling the wide expanse of nighttime silence with full-throated vocals and the icy breath of chopped samples, underlining the album's songwriting with a Burialesque touch.Indeed, dub is the (sometimes buried) beating heart of Haven.
The music of CHLLNGR (aka Steven Jess Borth II) is a new brand of aesthetic electronica. Focusing on the visual and the visceral as much as the orchestral ambiance of his beats, this Copenhagen-based artist’s debut album, Haven, exhibits more talent and potential than some of the most seasoned veterans. Following a series of reputable remixes with The xx , M.I.A., Truths and Rights, and Primary 1, Borth has shown his prowess as a musical maven with this debut.
Though he’s a few hundred miles west of the U.K. club scene, Copenhagen’s Steven Borth has no intention of missing out on dubstep’s next leap forward. Like any aspiring producer, he’s saddled himself with a dramatic moniker and introduced his sound to the Internet with a few strategically chosen remixes. He wooed indie fans by adding peals of churchbell to the xx’s “Islands” without sacrificing the original’s balance of cavernousness and intimacy, and showed he could play against script when he transformed M.I.A.‘s bruising “Steppin’ Up” into something delicate and understated.
There's little argument that dubstep has bled into the mainstream. The pulsing electronic music offshoot that reared its head in South London in the early aughts has since gone global, and while it hasn't reached the same levels of notoriety as, say, hip-hop did in the mid 1980s (nor has it yet become subject to those same levels of commercialization and bastardization), the market is indeed flooded. Enter Steven Borth, a Copenhagen-by-way-of-California musician who records as the trendily monikered, all-caps-no-vowels CHLLNGR, best known for his cavernous, doom-drunk remix of the xx's "Islands".
Steven Jess Borth II, otherwise known as CHLLNGR, could never be accused of not being a student of electronic music. His full-length debut, Haven, draws liberally from the past 15 years of the genre, from the tribal house of "At Last" to the James Blake-ian post-dubstep of "Ask For" or "Someone." Borth's a master at finding a vocal hook and manipulating it, so songs like "Sundown," featuring fellow Copenhagener Quadron's Coco O., twist into something rather compelling, accented with quirky synths and plenty of clicky programmed drums, not quite straightforward but nowhere near unpredictable. (This isn't the consistent feature, however.