The second album from Copenhagen-based producer CHLLNGR (Steven Jess Borth II, apparently another recruit in bass music’s continuing assault on the evils of vowels) follows three years after his debut, ‘Haven’.
That was a solid exploration of dubstep and R&B, with a fairly overt Burial influence. With access to a much bigger studio this time around, album two widens the remit and quickens the pace, thanks to a barrage of collaborators like Blaqstarr, Grace Hall from Skin Town and JOSIAHWISE IS THE SERPENTWITHFEET. Yes, that is an actual dude, and not just a name seemingly cribbed from a Nathan Barley episode.
There’s a strong pop backbone to the album, most noticeably on the five collaborations with JOSIAHWISE. His slick vocals add a warmth and urgency to proceedings. To make an obvious, but still apposite comparison, he feels like the Sampha to Borth’s SBTRKT. Borth’s excursions into purer dub sounds, like ‘Inside My Skin’, are welcome, but feel slight and incomplete in comparison.
That said, it's the more individual tracks – ‘First Time’, which sounds not unlike a lost Bernard Fevre track until Dels comes in, or the jazzy ‘Yes’ – that stand out. When CHLLNGR broadens his musical palette, the album comes alive.
Words: Will Salmon
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